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Full text of "A brilliant woman"




LI B RAR.Y 

OF THE 
U N IVLRSITY 
or ILLINOIS 

C427b 



A BRILLIANT WOMAN 



A 



BRILLIANT WOMAN 



BY 

THE HONORABLE Mrs.H ENRY CHETWYND. 

AUTHOR OF 

"the march violet," "SARA," "love IX A GERMAN VILLAGE," 
"A DUTCH COUSIN," ETC., STC. 



IN THREE VOLUMES— \\\. 



lonbon 1892 

HUTCHINSON AND CO, 

25 PATERNOSTER SQUARE 



I'RINTKK AT MMKGl'K.N (hOI.LAND) 

BY H. C A. THtEMK OK NIMKGUKN (HOLLA.Nu'' 

AND 

TALBOT HOUSE, AEUNUEL STREET, 

LONUON, W.C. 



u. 3 



CONTENTS 

VOL. Ill 



CHAPTER PAGE 
I. MR. BURLINGTON'S ARRANGEMENTS AND WHAT THE 

NEIGHBOURS SAID I 

II. "THAT IS NOT THE LETTER I SENT YOU." 21 

in. ABOUT TWO LOSSES 30 

IV. DISCOVERIES 45 

V. MRS. BURLINGTON EN ROUTE 5/ 

VI. THE TABLE D'HoTE 74 

VII. OLD MR. WYNCOTE TO THE RESCUE 94 

Vni. FRIENDS ? 108 

rS. ALONE IN LONDON II 8 

X. NEAR THE NORTH LODGE 1 33 

XI. ON HER FOOTSTEPS I44 

Xn. WANTED, AN ADDRESS 1 53 

XIII. TOGETHER AT LAST . I70 

XIV. WAS IT THE LAST OF FLORA HARRINGTON? 1 82 

XV. THE MEETING OF OLD FRIENDS 200 

XVI. THE CLEANING OF THE WORD " THANKFULNESS. " . . . 2 11 

XVII. ABOUT A CERTAIN LUNATIC 223 

XVrn. THE ATTITUDE OF THE COUNTY TOWARDS MRS. KINGSON 235 

XrX. OVER THE FLOWER-BEDS 245 

XX. VICTORY 258 



A BRILLIANT WOMAN. 



CHAPTER I. 

MR. BURLINGTON'S ARRANGEMENTS, AND WHAT 
THE NEIGHBOURS SAID. 

Mr. Burlington was at this time sincerely to be 
pitied. First he discovered that he very much 
cared for his wife and for her companionship just 
when she left him. Next he was a typical Eng- 
lishman, hating the privacy of his home to be 
looked into, and his most intimate family matters 
brought under discussion. He would have hated 
the misfortunes or misconduct of one of his servants 
becoming the topic of conversation in the neigh- 
bourhood, and scandal affecting the gardener's young- 
est labourer would have sensibly annoyed him. 
VOL. HI. I 



2 A Brilliant Wovian. 

He passed many sleepless hours, and remained 
quite as miserable (after tossing about all night) as 
he did when he lay down to take the rest and 
sleep supposed very erroneously to belong in so 
particular a manner to the just. 

How was he to escape the gossip this separation 
would bring upon his devoted head; how arrange 
matters so that his particular world should not 
know how things really were ? Because when — he 
never said if — his wife returned to him and to her 
duty, her path must be made easy to her, and the 
way left open. Scandal after her return would be 
more difficult to meet and combat than even now, 
when, if anything was said, it stood on the uncertain 
feet of conjecture only ; nothing was really known. 

There was one thing certain enough, that he 
must remain away from his place, and content 
himself with flying visits only, to see for himself 
how all was enduring the test of his absence. And 
this was exile, and extremely distasteful to him. 



Mr. Burlington's Arra^igenie^its. 3 

To uproot a county gentleman from his home, 
his shootings, his country business, his neighbours, 
and his home farm was to take much of the zest 
of his life, if not the whole of it, away; and that 
Mr. Burlington did uproot himself proved in a very 
strong way how much he cared for his wife's posi- 
tion and the sanctity of his home. Then the second 
difficulty was a very real difficulty. There was the 
maid — a good, steady, nice person against whom 
no fault could be found, and whom his wife liked. 

She belonged to the Adleyboumes' village. If 
she was parted with, all manner of things might 
be said. If she returned to her duties, she would 
see for herself that her master and mistress were 
separated, and it would be only natural that a fact 
of so much importance should be told to her people. 
Mrs. Burlington had already asked for her once or 
twice, and the important woman who had taken 
possession of the sick-room would have to go to 
other — and, by her own showing, more congenial 



4 A Brilliant Woman. 

— duties elsewhere. Aunt Anne was always rc:idy 
to console, and always more than anxious to be of 
any use, but between her conscientious desire to be 
quite just, her love and compassion for Cyril, and 
the way in which his wife had been kept in 
ignorance of what she ought to have known, 
her offered sympathy was a doubtful comfort to him. 

Even with her he could not discuss his wife, and 
he himself imperfectly understood how he had arrived 
at his present standpoint, or how criticism had 
given place to an affection, the strength of which 
surprised him so much. He had been able to 
criticise, and he knew now that he almost loved 
her faults, that he missed her and all the brightness 
she had brought to his home — that, in short, he 
loved her — and he could no more analyse her 
motives or talk over her actions even with Aunt 
Anne than he could fly. 

He went every day to smoke his early cigarette 
beneath his wife's windows. He seldom heard her 



Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 5 

voice, and he was not much edified by the loud- 
voiced, pompous utterances of Mrs. Bonthorpe, the 
nurse, whom he looked upon as his natural enemy, 
seeing that he always hoped that her departure 
meant his wife's return to him. Mrs. Bonthorpe 
was a scientifically trained nurse, an outcome of 
the rage for improvement which puts a scientific 
training on a substratum of innate vulgarity and 
imperfect early education. Need it be said that her 
talk was of duchesses ; not one of whom she probably 
knew by sight, but to whom she left not a shred 
of character? It was foolish to be annoyed; but 
poor Mr. Burlington was annoyed when he heard 
her holding forth about the position of affairs he 
had done so little to bring into that state. "No 
establishment! No servants! Nothing! I had to 
take things in, be housekeeper, and take charge, 
and do everything! I don't regret it. My last 
Duchess was a little inclined to have a will of her 
own, and Mrs. Burlington is a biddable sweet 



6 A Brillia7ii Woman. 

young person; but, dear me, I had to have my 
wits about me ! I don't grudge the trouble, but 
I'm sorry for the poor young thing." This was 
hard on Mr. Burhngton, and the whole tone of the 
woman was offensive to him. He entreated Aunt 
Anne to find out what his wife's plans and wishes 
were, and what could be done about the maid, 
explaining what he felt to be the difficulty. 

Aunt Anne saw the difficulty, but it cannot be 
said that she offered any practicable solution. No 
words of hers moved Maria ; she was quite resolved 
not to face the neighbourhood — not to see her 
husband till she could convince everyone that her 
mother was not a mother to be ashamed of She 
was perfectly convinced that she could trace her 
mother's history and set her in fairer colours to 
her husband and the world ! 

She would not look at any other side of the 
question ; and when Aunt Anne said to her, " And 
supposing, my dear, you never achieve this, are 



J/r. Burlington's Arrangements. 7 

you and poor Cyril to be apart all your lives; 
because this is what it comes to?" she went into 
an agonising pitiful state, and poor Aunt Anne 
repented at once that she had put such a possi- 
bilit}^ before her. 

" Do not ask me any more, " pleaded Maria, with 
tearless sobs, always so far more painful to hear 
than an outburst of tears and loud crying. " Be- 
lieve me, dear Aunt Anne, I grieve more than 
Cyril can grieve ; he has been generous, most kind ; 
he has nothing to look back upon which can cause 
him remorse or even regret. I have." Then she 
added in a low voice, " Do you not think that it 
is terrible for me to have to thank God that my 
child did not live? Is there any other mother so 
placed, any mother like me that can say this from 
her heart? Can I wish to give my children the 
heritage of shame? Tell this to Cyril. He will 
understand this." 

To this reasoning what had Aunt Anne to oppose ? 



8 A Brilliant Woman. 

She might think it exaggerated and feel that in 
this Cyrirs happiness should be consulted, but in 
her heart she gave Maria right, and Maria saw it. 

In the meantime round the fair home of the 
Burlingtons something, though not all he dreaded, 
was actually being said. Mrs. Adleybourne did 
not care for Mrs. Burlington. She had always 
resented the way in which she monopolized the 
people who surrounded her. It is hard for a 
mother with unattractive daughters to see a bril- 
liant young married woman putting them hopelessly 
in the shade, and, while not a vindictive or an 
untruthful woman, she acutely felt that her original 
disapproval of the young wife was justified by 
after events. 

The wildest rumours float best on shallow streams. 
Nothing was known, but everything was surmised, 
and from a slight attack of nervousness to actual 
insanity of an especially aggravated and violent 
type, everything was believed — strait waistcoat, 



Mr. Burlingtoifs Arra?ige??ic?ifs. g 

padded rooms, and all else. Since the departure 
of the Burlingtons the archer}- meeting, which had 
generally taken place at Burlington IVIanor in turn 
with the ducal residence and the Adleybourne's 
place, had come altogether to be divided between 
the two last places. Each Thursday saw the count}^ 
and a few others in their best clothes on the wide 
lawn of Beau ^Nlanoir or at Leyboume. 

The proximity of a ducal residence has its advan- 
tages and disadvantages, like other things. It 
enables the neighbours to be familiar with the 
manners and customs of great people, and to see 
for themselves that a well-bred duchess is simply 
like everv' other well-bred English lady, and it also 
enables the same country neighbours to see occa- 
sionally those whose names are household words, 
and who influence and control the destinies of the 
human race in England and abroad. But there is 
one drawback. The size of a ducal residence is 
generally so great that it makes all minor resi- 



lo A BrilUniif WoDuin. 

dences few and far between. It is a sort of Triton 
that swallows up all other smaller things, minnows 
included, and when, as is sometimes the case, the 
family have several places, they are too often 
absent, and the huge park and great house are 
more ornamental than useful. 

It was, therefore, a matter for constant congra- 
tulation that the Duke and Duchess lived at Beau 
Manoir six months out of the twelve, that the Duke 
took a very real and constant interest in county 
matters, and that his view of the duties and 
responsibilities of his position was to draw people 
round him from the extreme ends of the county, 
and allow distant neighbours who might not meet 
otherwise to make acquaintance, and often friendships, 
under his hospitable roof. 

His best shooting was given to sportsmen who 
had no shooting of their own. He never sold his 
game, and he never had battues. All the game 
not used in the house was given to his neighbours, 



Mr. Bitrlingto7i' s Arrangements. ii 

which included the poorest people on his property 
and surrounding villages. It is easy to imagine 
that he was beloved. The Duchess, on her side, 
was one of those charming and delightful persons 
who have the one great wish to make everyone 
as happy as she was herself. 

She was consistently cheerful, and, though she 
was not boisterously gay, she was never corres- 
pondingly depressed: her definition of happiness 
was being able to do a kindness to any one, most 
especially some one beloved. It was a notable fact 
that her dislike of any ill-natured gossip was so 
well known, that a story, instead of gaining wings, 
lost them going up the avenue, and no one ever 
ventured to repeat before her anything unkind, un- 
charitable, or unjust, and as everyone wished to 
please her (as a rule), and most people were a 
little afraid of risking their welcome, malice was 
stifled and envy and hatred hid their diminished 
heads when there was the smallest risk of her 



12 A Brilliant Womaii, 

Grace's sharp ears overhearing their remarks. But 
next in importance to the Duchess (now that the 
BurUngtons were absent) came Mrs. Adleybourne, 
and there were a good many people who consi- 
dered that Mrs. Adleybourne did as much for those 
she aifected as the Duchess herself. She gave 
excellent tennis parties, and undeniable claret cup, 
and she brought the right people together. These 
three very distinct merits obtained a popularity for 
Mrs. Adleybourne that her ill-nature hardly entitled 
her to. She was a disappointed embittered woman, 
and she considered that Providence had treated her 
with so much unkindness that she had a real griev- 
ance against it. 

She had been undeniably handsome, and had 
married a very plain man — an event frequent within 
everyone's experience. Unfortunately, she had seven 
daughters and but one son. All the daughters 
were terribly plain, and were, besides, dull, hope- 
lessly, helplessly, cruelly dull. They had had 



Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 13 

masters and governesses, and had travelled. They 
were good as gold ; but in a world that expects 
to be amused they were a very distinct failure. 

Now, certain things are not clearly understood 
till they are accentuated and brought into strong 
relief by some sudden contrast; and the Adley- 
boume girls were spoken of as " dear good girls, 
not very bright, you know, but awfully good," till 
the advent of young Mrs. Burlington. 

^Irs. Burlington, with her well-cut gowns, her 
ease of manner, her individual charm, her bright- 
ness, and her brilliancy, put the Adleyboume girls 
at a great disadvantage, and the mother could not 
help seeing it. She could not, perhaps, help re- 
senting it ; and she did resent it. 

The imperfectly known story of Mrs. Burling- 
ton's journey south came as a drop of balm to her 
perturbed spirit. She immediately anticipated the 
worst, and, anticipating it, announced it as an 
accomplished fact. 



14 A Brilliant IVowa;/. 

" I for one am not surprised, though I am of 
course grieved," she said, in answer to a remark 
about the strangeness of the sudden departure from 
Burlington Manor ; " there were always a strange- 
ness and a wildness and a something in Mrs. Bur- 
lington's eyes that made me very unhappy. I grieve 
for him ; poor dear fellow. " 

" Those very brilliant eyes do not always be- 
token mental vigour," said Mrs. Burton, who had a 
neutral tone of voice, who generally dealt in aphor- 
isms, and was without special enthusiasm herself in 
any direction. 

" Well, I confess there was always something that 
made me uncomfortable. Men are so blind that 
they cannot perceive that that brilliancy they so 
much admire is not a lasting quality : it always be- 
tokens cerebral excitement. If in these high pres- 
sure days a girl happens to be modest and quiet 
and unassuming, she is passed over." 

" It is unhappily true ; the days of the violets are 



Mr. Burliiigton' s Arrangements. 15 

over. Then that play — graceful if you like, and the 
dancing, but — if I had daughters I should not have 
cared for the abandon. There was a want of 
reserve about it altogether." 

" There was a want of discretion in the whole 
thing to my mind. I hate your showy people!" 

" And, " continued Mrs. Burton, in her most mo- 
notonous voice, "why should the Burlingtons be 
exempted from all the evils of the common lot? 
What unmingled prosperity has been theirs ! Riches, 
and good health, and good looks — not that I appre- 
ciate good looks so much as many people, perhaps. 
Well, such prosperity must have a check. I am 
sorry for him, truly sorry. What is her illness, dear 
Mrs. Adleyboume ? " 

"Something on the brain, I believe. Her maid 
lives in our village, and she says so little, and is 
so very mysterious, that one cannot help fearing 
the worst. Besides, if it is an ordinary illness, why 
is the maid not there?" 



1 6 A Bnlliant Woman. 

" Ah, then it is insanity, " said Mrs. Burton com- 
fortably, with all the resignation with which we 
consign our neighbours to endure any sort of ill. 

" Well, it is against the rules of Providence that 
any family should for so many decades have a run 
of unmingled prosperity," said Mrs. Adleybourne, 
repeating Mrs. Burton's words unconsciously. 

" Is she very violent ? Have you heard any par- 
ticulars ? Can you give me any details ? " and Mrs. 
Burton drew nearer and lowered her voice. " Not 
from curiosity, you know; but because I am so 
intensely interested. Shall we ever see those poor 
things among us again?" 

"I know really very little. We must hope for 
the best, " said Mrs. Adleybourne in rather a stately 
way. She was offended because of that " we " 
slipped in by Mrs. Burton, considering herself several 
grades above her, her husband having a place 
—and a fine place— and Mrs. Burton being, so to 
say, on sufferance only, the wife of a professional 



Mr. Burlington's Arrangements, 17 

man, with no place to speak of. Mrs. Burton rose 
and went off to compassionate " those poor Burling- 
tons " to other people ; for it may be remarked that 
nothing gives a greater sense of equality than being 
able to commiserate your social superior. Through- 
out the assembled party this was the ke3"note on 
which and from which every sort of air was played, 
with major or minor variations. By degrees people 
got unguarded, and the Duchess caught a few words 
and moved among her guests, vexed and on the 
alert. 

" You are talking of the Burlingtons, " she said, 
in her soft soprano, to Mrs. Adleyboume. " You 
will be glad to hear that Mr. Burlington was able 
to send such a good account of Mrs. Burlington 
this morning. She is so much better! " 

" I am very glad, indeed, " said Mrs. Adleybourne 

after a momentary pause. It is not easy to turn 

one's mind from one direction to another without a 

significant stop. These mental feats require a pivot 
VOL. III. 2 



1 8 A Brilliant Woina7i. \ 

of some sort. "But do the doctors think the im- j 
provement will last?" 

Her tone was peculiar, and the Duchess, who had : 
never heard any exaggerations, did not understand ! 
exactly what she meant. 

" When doctors agree that all danger is over, one 
is justified in feeling hopeful," she answered. "In 
these mental cases, so often, relapses are the rule — j 
not the exception." ■ 

" One can hardly call Mrs. Burlington's a mental ' 
case," answered the Duchess pleasantly. "I think j 
you must have heard an exaggerated account of j 
her illness. May I ask what you have heard ? " 

" Insanity was spoken of. " 

" Insanity ! How terrible a thing. I am so very 
glad you have told me. No; Mrs. Burlington has 
had typhoid fever, which was bad enough. She was 
delirious, the fever went to the brain — not a very 
uncommon thing ; but she is getting quite well, and 
is going abroad for change soon." 



Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 19 

Mrs. Adleybourne waved her head gently to and 
fro, as one who should say, " That is an imperfect 
edition. I know more." The Duchess looked grave; 
she considered that she had said enough, and that 
Mrs. Adleybourne should be convinced. 

"Mine is good authority," she said rather coldly. 

"Very good authority, Duchess. But why is her 
maid here and not there?" 

" A young maid, and probably unaccustomed to 
llness, is not as good as a professional nurse. 
However, I hope you will tell the truth to any one 
who has a wrong version. You know, dear Mrs. 
Adleybourne, as well as I do, that these rumours 
are often carelessly started, and do harm. I am 
sure you will help me to let everyone know the 
truth." 

These words, uttered in her most winning man- 
ner, completed Mrs. Adleybourne's conversion. 

"You may rely upon me. Duchess," she said, 
and she meant it. 



20 A Brtlliafit Woman. 

This was why Mrs. Burton, a Httle later on, was 
snubbed by Mrs. Adleyboume for having enlarged 
a little upon the original suggestion. Much annoyed, 
Airs. Burton not very unnaturally turned upon her, 
as worms are said to turn. " You said so yourself! " 
she said, with some heat. 

"I said so? No! pray, do not think so badly of 
me, dear Mrs. Burton ! To suggest a thing as pos- 
sible is one thing, to assert it as a fact is another. 
I merely suggested it. You understand?" 

" Yes ; I understand, " said Mrs. Burton meekly, 
which, all the same, is exactly what she did not do ! 



CHAPTER II. 

"THAT IS NOT THE LETTER I SENT YOU." 

Whatever neighbours in the country might say 
or do, the solution of the problem regarding his 
wife's conduct remained unsolved as far as Mr. Bur- 
lington was concerned. 

Why, now the whole story of her mother's past 
was known to her, she should persistently refuse 
to see him, puzzled him beyond conception. For 
he considered that the whole story was known. He 
could understand her dislike to facing the country 
neighbours. She had held her head high, and she 
would find it difficult at first to accept a lower level 



2 2 A Brilliant Woman. 

than the one she had placed herself upon. And yet 
his knowledge of her character led him to expect 
her to take this whole unfortunate business differently, 
and to carry everything off with a high hand. If 
there was humiliation she was he considered the 
very last person to allow it, or to betray any mortifi- 
cation. She would be more consistently herself by 
ignoring either the one or the other, and not allowing 
any one to credit her with even knowing of any 
reason for the least change in her demeanour. 

But, however wrong his conclusions might be, he 
had believed that the increasing affection for her 
he was himself conscious of, was not upon his side 
only. Those little trifles, which are of no importance 
in themselves, and yet which become important if 
studied by the light of after events, showed him an 
attention to his tastes and his wishes, a desire to 
please him, which could have but one meaning. 
After all, he might worry his brain and torment 
himself to all eternity. There was only one way of 



" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 23 

knowing; his wife alone could explain all. His notes 
were unanswered, his messages unheeded; and he 
did not know what to think or what course to 
pursue. 

To throw prudence to the winds, march in upon 
her, and, taking her by surprise, ask her what she 
meant, what he had done; this naturally was a 
solution of the difficulty which commended itself to 
him. But in the face of the doctor's earnest warnings 
against any undue excitement as fatal to his wife's 
perfect restoration to health and strength, he put 
his convictions upon one side, and remained sub- 
missively apart. 

Several duchesses having (according to her own 
showing) clamoured for the pompous "Gamp," she 
departed, and then Cyril learned from Aunt Anne 
that his wife's one wish was to go to the seaside, and 
to go, alone if possible, abroad. 

Aunt Anne could not bear to tell him of Maria's 
feverish anxiety to put the sea between him and 



24 A Brilliant Woman. 

herself, and of her plans, which to her, poor lady, 
sounded so wild and impracticable. She never be- 
lieved in their assuming any shape, and looked upon 
everything as simply talk. 

But one day a letter was given into her hand, 
and the letter enclosed one to Cyril from his wife. 
" I have gone, " she said. " I have left England to 
trace my mother. I do not believe she is dead. I 
have a clue. If a day comes when I can clear her 
name, and stand before you on the footing of other 
wives, I will so stand. I have felt very bitterly the 
silence that followed my appeal to you. It was written 
when I was most terribly unhappy, and perhaps 
looked unreal and exaggerated to you, but I felt 
every word. The silent scorn with which you treated 
my letter has nearly killed me. But I am not 
ungrateful. You have been generous and kind in 
many things, and you were deceived. We both 
have much to forgive Mrs. Kingson." 

It was signed, " Your true wife. " 



" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 25 

She had gone. Her room was empty; she had 
taken the barest necessaries with her and very 
little money; he was afraid. There was no way of 
tracing her; she had walked out of the house, and 
in which direction she had gone who could say ? 
Aunt Anne completely lost patience with her. 

Mrs. Kingson, when she came to know of her 
flight, abused her in unmeasured terms. 

Mr. Burlington took those few lines to Mr. King- 
son, and asked him plainly what she meant. " What 
letter does she refer to ? " he asked. " This is not 
the first time she has spoken of an unanswered appeal." 

Before Mr. Kingson could remind him of the 
enclosure he had himself forwarded, Mrs. Kingson, 
who was always in a fever when the subject of 
the letter was touched upon, uttered a loud scream, 
startling both men. " Cramp ! " she called out ; 
" Cramp ! Get me something hot ! " 

She was a long time recovering, and lay on the 
sofa, holding the hand of her sympathetic husband, 



26 A Brilliant Woman. 

and was finally persuaded to go to her own room, 
satisfied that all danger was over for the time. 

But Mr. Kingson was a man of tenacious memory. 
He sympathised very thoroughly with Mr. Burling- 
ton's position, and considered that his niece was 
behaving very badly; and when the episode of the 
cramp was over, he went back to the library, pre- 
pared to allow the husband to talk upon the all- 
engrossing subject to him, and counsel him to the 
best of his ability. 

" You were asking me when my poor wife had 
that horrid attack of cramp about my letter to you. " 

"Not so much about your letter to me, but of 
what my wife calls her appeal to me. What appeal 
does she refer to ? " 

" I fancy, the letter I enclosed to you. " 

" There was no enclosure. " 

The two men looked straight in each other's faces. 

" I enclosed a letter from her. I put it inside 
mine before I sealed it." 



" That is not the Letter I sent you. " i-j 

"Your letter had no enclosure." 

" Well, it must have dropped out as you opened it. " 

" That is impossible, because I opened it at the 
study table. You remember I was with the Beryls, 
and came back at once." 

" This is very serious, " said Mr. Kingson. " Have 
you got my letter?" 

" Yes ; I have not destroyed it. If you like I 
will bring it to you to show you. But there was 
no enclosure." 

Mr. Kingson was called away for a few moments, 
and Mr. Burlington sat waiting for his return. 

As he sat there it seemed to him so strange to 
see, as he did, his wife's presence vividly before 
him, and to know that they were so hopelessly 
apart at present. He could see her once again 
standing up against the dark oak carving, and all 
her graceful attitudes as she decked the room with 
flowers. How the sunrays had touched the ruddy 
gold of her hair, and how she had dazzled and 



28 A Bnlliaiit Woman. 

charmed him by her pretty ways, and the briUiancy 
of her colouring, and her smile. And yet how far 
far less dear she had been to him then than she was 
now that she seemed to have slipped out of his life. 
Where was the cold criticism he had then in- 
dulged in ? The prosaic future he had planned had 
vanished; he knew now it could not content him. 
He knew now that in the ever changing brilliant 
figure in which he had once found no repose, lay 
a charm for him without which his life would not 
be worth much to him, and he was filled with deep 
regrets for the loss of those peculiarities which are 
so little understood by many people, w^ho see a 
definite merit in monotony, and something absolutely 
wrong in originality. For there are many men 
who admire, some few who love a girl for possess- 
ing characteristics opposite to their own ; follow a 
natural law, and marry them, and then never rest 
happy till they have done their utmost to level them 
down to a family standard and destroy the very 



" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 29 

essence of what attracted them at first. They do 
not understand that the happiest married Hves are 
not when people marry who have what is prosaic- 
ally put as having " much in common, " but where 
the character of the one supplements the deficiencies 
of the other, and where love and admiration go 
hand-in-hand. 

Mr. Burlington did not notice that Mr. Kingson 
was some time absent, but when he came back the 
two walked together through the park and across 
Kensington Gardens to Mr. Burlington's residence. 

When the letter was produced Mr. Kingson 
changed colour, and spoke with some difiiculty. 

" This is the only communication you had ? " 

" The only one. I fancied it was Mrs. Kingson's 
writing, not yours, till you undeceived me." 

"The letter is not mine," said Mr. Kingson. 
" That is not the letter I sent you, with poor Maria's 
enclosed. I never saw that letter before ! " 



CHAPTER III. 

ABOUT TWO LOSSES. 

Mrs. Kingson was still lying on her sofa when 
her husband returned. She had been all this time 
lulled into a false security. As the days passed 
on she had told herself that all was right and all 
w^ould be right, and had dismissed as much as 
possible the whole idea of discovery from her mind. 
But, however blunt a conscience may be, there 
is an uncomfortable sense of a wrong committed 
which may or may not be always before one, but which 
is always there as a black shadow, suggesting a 
possible check to otherwise fortuitous plans. And 



About two Losses. 31 

it happened now, as it probably has often happened 
before, that Mrs. Kingson could not see the strong 
reasons for her action now which she had seen at 
the time. 

What had possessed her to do such a thing ? 
Why had she burdened her conscience with an 
action dishonourable and base, such as she recognized 
this action was ? 

Trite maxims about repentance did not come to 
her, and in one sense there was no repentance now. 
But she hated having a haunting, uncomfortable 
feeling, and dreaded detection. She had often planned 
things, and her glib tongue had slipped out many 
untrue versions of those things to gain her end ; 
but a deed like this she had never done before, 
and she reflected that if this act was found out she 
might be suspected of many more. When Mr. 
Kingson appeared, he luckily or unluckily asked 
her a question, and she answered it at once — with 
an appendix. 



32 A Brilliant Woman. 

" Did you write to Mr. Burlington, Maria ?" her 
husband asked. " I mean when all came out. " 

" Of course I did. You wrote, also ; did you 
not ?" 

"Then where was the use of your writing?" 

" Because I was afraid you might put it too 
strongly; I wished much to keep things smooth." 

"I wish you had left it alone." 

" Why ? You never would believe me ; you never 
thought me in the right, but one woman knows 
another woman best. I always warned you that it 
would be fatal telling Maria. You never will be 
guided by me. You took your own way. What is 
the consequence ?" 

She made rather a strong point here, and she 
was fully aware of it. 

"A very disagreeable thing has happened. My 
letter, which contained a letter from Maria to her 
husband, never reached him." He looked eagerly 
at her. (Mrs. Kingson was conscious of increased 



About two Losses. 33 

discomfort.) " The loss of that letter is at the bottom 
of all this miserable business. She would not see 
him because it was an appeal, and he never answered 
it. It is terribly unfortunate." 

" Very unfortunate. " Mrs. Kingson spoke in a 
low voice which sounded sympathetic to her hus- 
band's ear. 

" Did Maria think, was she certain, that her 
husband got her letter ?" 

"Yes, poor thing! That is the worst part. She 
asked me over and over again whether I had sent 
her letter. We have been at wretched cross purposes 
from end to end. I knew I had sent her letter, 
and I kept always saying so." 

" How unfortunate ! " repeated Mrs. Kingson. 

" I even asked Burlington whether he had got 

my letter, and he said yes; that is, he thought it 

was from you ; was it not from you ? Not knowing- 

you had written, I said, ' Oh no, it was from me. ' 

Now Maria has gone, how can we tell her? " 
VOL. III. 3 



34 A Brilliant Woman. 

Mr. Kingson was so put out and so unhappy 
that Mrs. Kingson wished more than ever that she 
had left things alone. 

But she had not the courage to confess now; 
and the mischief was done, and could not be undone. 
To turn the subject, which was so painful to her, 
she asked what Maria's plans were, if any one 
knew them. 

" All we know is that she wants to find her mother. 
The wildest idea. Then she wants to clear her 
name. " 

"A still wilder idea," said Mrs. Kingson, severely. 

" I do not agree with you, " answered her husband, 
gravely. " I myself think that much in her story sup- 
posed to be against her might bear a different 
interpretation. " 

"What is she like?" asked Mrs. Kingson, sud- 
denly. 

"How can I tell? If she is alive now, she must 
be much changed. She was the most beautiful 



Abotit two Losses. 35 

woman I ever saw, and the most graceful. I never 
fully believed in her going wrong," he added, with 
much emotion. " Her whole nature must have 
changed if it was so." 

"Her being the most beautiful woman you ever 
saw is not exactly a description of her personal 
appearance," said Mrs. Kingson, a little offended 
with her husband. "Was she like Maria?" 

" Yes and no. Not nearly so tall, but with the same 
sort of eyes, and a flitting colour very like poor Ma- 
ria's. You remember how her colour came and went 
in old days. Now she has hardly any colour at all. " 

" After an illness you cannot expect it, " said his 
wife, who, since she had done Maria an injustice, 
felt something of dislike towards her, and who at 
any rate had more than her share of feminine indif- 
ference where the loss of beauty in another woman 
was in question. 

She feigned fatigue ; she had a great deal to think 
over and to plan out. 



36 A Brilliant Woman. 

Mr. Kingson went to write to the butler at Bur- 
lington. It was important that that letter should 
be found, and he begged that search should be 
made, and that inquiries at the post-offices at each 
end between the manor and the Beryls' place might 
be made at once also. 

Alone, Mrs. Kingson closed her eyes, and tried 
to see what could be done. 

Her first idea, dismissed at once, was to get 
access in some way to Mr. Burlington's clothes and 
slip that letter into one of the pockets. vShe never 
had been in such a dilemma before. What had 
possessed her! 

Then a sudden thought made her forget her 
headache and fatigue, and all else. She rose up 
with a celerity in marked contrast with her previous 
languor ; she locked her door, and going to a writ- 
ing desk she hunted through the contents with so 
much excitement that she missed what she wanted 
to find for a long time. 



About two Losses. ^y 

She rang for her maid. Then she remembered 
something else she wished to do, sent her maid for 
some tea, and began to hunt once more among 
her papers for the famous letter addressed to Mr. 
Burlington. 

But she hunted in vain; she got cold and hot 
and most wretched. She tried to remember how 
she had stood and where she had stood when she 
had changed the letters. 

Her memory was a blank about everything except 
the act she now so bitterly regretted. She tried to 
remember how she was dressed, and she could not 
remember even that; and by the time her maid 
brought her some tea she was sorely in need of it, 
and she drank it with feverish haste. 

Then, saying that she would go for a short walk 
and try to get rid of her headache, she put on her 
thickest veil, and left the room. 

Her maid, who suffered at times from her capri- 
cious temper, watched her going downstairs. She 



38 A Brilliant Woman. 

knew quite well something unusual was in the way, 
for, if a man can never be "a hero to his valet, ** 
it is equally certain that a woman can seldom deceive 
her maid, who generally knows exactly what reasons 
there are for peculiar lines of conduct. 

For instance, Mrs. Kingson never took her purse 
with her when she went out walking. It enabled 
her to say truthfully if asked for charity by a beggar 
that she had " nothing" with her. To-day she took 
her purse. This was a significant fact. 

Nothing is stranger — if we could only see the 
process it would be a wonderful sight — than the 
way in which the threads of our complex lives are 
being spun by hands we never take into account 
at all. Mr. Kingson and Mr. Burlington, their 
wives, and Flora Harrington were all apparently 
going their several ways, and yet all were working 
towards one centre, and bringing the various threads 
together quite unconsciously. But Mrs. Burlington 
lost courage that day, and came home, giving up 



About two Losses. 39 

what she wanted to do. Mr. Buriington had set in 
motion every conceivable way of tracing his wife, 
and also was following up a slender clue, hoping 
to find her mother if alive, or to know what her 
fate had been. 

He had done as he imagined everything possible 
without publicity, and suffered now from that dull 
sense of inability to do more that succeeds exertion. 

Afterwards he accused himself of intense stupidity, 
of inconceivable negligence, but that was when 
quite unexpectedly Mr. Wyncote gave the clue he 
might have given from the very first, had any one 
thought of applying to him. 

It is always easy to speak philosophically of 
trouble, and to express conviction that if religion 
does not, assist one the study of Hebrew or abstruse 
mathematical studies are an unfailing remedy for 
mental anxiety. There are anxieties beyond the 
reach of either Hebrew or the differential calculus. 

Mr. Burlington tried to read, and found it useless. 



40 A Brilliant Woman. 

After years of almost monotonous tranquillity and 
placid content, he had gone through many varied 
experiences in eighteen months; and yet he could not 
wish the old life back now. Always before him 
was the mocking, laughing, brilliant face, the per- 
sonality which had touched a dull house with radiance, 
and had given life a charm and zest it had not 
before. As he sat pondering and debating what 
he could do next, there was an arrival, and Mr. 
Kingson, extremely ruffled, and looking quite un- 
like himself, walked into the room. 

" The most disagreeable thing has happened, " he 
said ; " come with me. I have to go to the police 
at once. " 

"What is wrong?" asked Mr. Burlington, only 
too much pleased to have his thoughts forcibly 
taken off the incessant anxiety of his present posi- 
tion, and rapidly getting into his coat. 

"My wife's maid — poor soul! she is in a dreadful 
distress about it ! — was bringing my wife's travelling- 



About two Losses. 41 

bag from King's Cross to Victoria by underground, 
and one or two boxes. My wife drove home and 
left her to do this. Looking out of the window at 
some station, she saw one of the boxes put out, 
evidently by mistake, and she unwisely jumped out 
to tell the guard to put it back. Before she could 
regain the carriage the train was off, and in the 
carriage remained the travelling-bag! " 

" I hope there was not much in it. " 

" A great deal too much ! Two or three bank- 
notes for ^5 or ^10, some of her diamonds, a 
cheque-book, and other things of value. It is 
dreadfully provoking. " 

The two men went off to Scotland Yard; bills 
were printed; a reward offered; and ever)rthing 
possible was done at once. 

During the next few days the number of people 
interviewed, the consultations with the police, and 
the discussion about this loss occupied a good deal 
of attention. 



42 A Brilliant Woman. 

In the middle of all this excitement Mr. Bur- 
lington received a letter from home, forwarded by 
Marsham. 

It had been sent to the Beryls' place, and stated 
that a letter for him had been found, and would 
be delivered up on payment of a small reward " to 
cover expenses. " 

Little dreaming of the importance of this letter. 
Air. Burlington laughed about it with Mr. Kingson, 
saying how strange it was that they should both 
be mixed up with missing property at the same 
time, and he proposed to go to the place named 
to claim his letter early next morning. Mrs. King- 
son was not alarmed. She did not at the moment 
connect it with her own dealings. It had occurred 
to her suddenly that the missing letter might have 
been in the pocket of a dress she had disliked and 
had given to her maid, and that her maid might 
have sold it, and she had started with the idea of 
going to the woman who bought these things to 



About hvo Losses. 43 

find out. But she had never seen her, and she was 
afraid of rousing any suspicions in the woman's mind. 
She contented herself by saying diplomatically to 
the maid in question, " Have you had any successful 
dealings with IMadame Marie lately ? " 
** No, ma'am. " 

" Oh, I am rather glad, as I was afraid I had 
left a memorandum in the pocket of one o thef 
dresses I gave you." 

"There was nothing that I saw, ma'am, or I 
should have brought it to you." 

She did not add " I got a better bargain from 
an old Jew, " but she did say " I sold the things to 
a respectable person in the city." 

Then Mrs. Kingson knew that the letter, that 
letter, was the one in question. 

Just as she was turning over in her own mind 
how to get there also, her husband came to tell 
her he had just heard from the same place, and 
that her bag and jewels were found. 



44 ^ Br i Ilia?? I JFoma?/. 

Mrs. Kingson's excitement was great. She had 
a faint hope that in the larger matter and the inte- 
rest it would create in her husband's mind the let- 
ters would sink into insignificance. But the hope 
was very faint, and she was wretched! 



CHAPTER IV. 

DISCOVERIES. 

It is impossible to describe ^Irs. Kingson's state of 
mind. She saw before her the whole of her after 
relations with her husband endangered, and she was 
completely hopeless. Discovery stared her in the 
face. Usually, she was a person who saw many 
ways out of a difficulty, but she saw no way now. 
She thought till her brain grew weary; and every- 
thing came round to the same conclusion; all was 
over, and her sin had found her out. 

Her misery was so great that she was passive 
now. She sat in a hansom beside Mr. Burlington 



46 A Brilliant Wo7nan. 

stupefied and silent, and he was grateful to her; 
for in the silent hours when the brains grows clearer 
there had rushed upon him quickly a hope that 
the letter he was going to retrieve might be the 
missing one from his wife. He could understand 
nothing of it all, but he hoped in the vague way 
in which we do hope against hope, that a solution 
of his difficulties was beginning to be found. 

As they drove along, each thing they passed was 
noted by both, as trifles impress themselves upon 
the brain at solemn and peculiarly trying moments 
to our own infinite amazement afterwards. The great 
things in life are often remembered with a certain 
indistinctness, but little things — the position of a 
window-curtain, the arrangement of bits of china, 
a coarsely coloured print in a shop window — these 
small insignificant things remain with us, and stand 
out clearly, when all else is forgotten. 

Past many dingy streets, redolent of stale tobacco 
smoke, and the vegetable refuse left after the morning 



Discoveries. 47 

stalls had been cleared away, and then the 
cab stopped. Down a narrow alley, gathering 
her skirts closely around her, Mrs. Kingson followed 
Mr. Burlington, and was in her turn followed by 
Mr. Archer, the detective, a very important man, 
but shrewd and experienced. 

Skirts of old dresses, old coats, cloaks, and clocks 
struggled for place on overcrowded pegs and 
shelves. The counter of the little dingy shop they 
were in search of was loaded with oddments, from 
gridirons and flat irons to mended china, this last 
alone keeping a look of better days. A ver}^ dirty 
man, whose sole remaining eye seemed perpetually 
searching for the one that had gone; a still dirtier 
woman with the hopeless, tired look gin bestows as 
much as opium upon its victims, stood expectant, 
hiding their fears behind a sort of dogged, obsti- 
nate look. 

"Your pleasure?" said the man, surlily. 

" I received this letter yesterday, " said Mr. Bur- 



48 A Brilliant IVomajt, 

lington, holding- up the letter in his hand. " T have 
come to answer it in person." 

"Are you alone?" 

"No. You can see I have others with me." 

"What will you give me for the letter?" 

"I cannot say till T have seen it." 

"And the jewels! Let me see them, let me see 
my bag!" broke in Mrs. Kingson. 

Here Archer stepped forw^ard. " It is right and 
better you should know I am a detective from 
Scotland Yard. I know you both. I think you 
know me. Produce the jewels, the letter, and every- 
thing else at once, and account for having them 
in your possession." The woman brazened out 
everything; the man turned white with fear. Sul- 
lenly he produced the bag, and emptied the con- 
tents upon the counter. Everything was there, but 
no letter. 

"All is here but the letter" said Mr. Archer, 
after having heard from Mrs. Kingson that every- 



Discoveries. 49 

thing was intact. " Produce the letter at once." 

" The letter was not in the bag. " mumbled the 

old man. " It was in the pocket of the maid's gown. " 

Dirty from its strange vicissitudes, and much 

crumpled, it was given reluctantly to Archer, who 

looked at it and handed it to Mr. Burlington. It 

was Mr. Kingson's missing letter. Mr. Burlington 

put his purse into Archer's hands and retreated to 

the doorway, where by the uncertain flare and flicker 

of the gas-jet he read in anxious haste his wife's 

appeal. Then he understood something of what she 

must have felt at its having been left unanswered. 

And a burning indignation against those who had 

worked this wrong filled him. He stood passive, 

waiting till his business was over, till he could get 

away, with the feeling that in purer air, perhaps, 

he could understand better. 

In a lady's maid's gown! How did it get there? 

The seal was intact. Had it been sent irregularly 

to the post, and forgotten? 

VOL. III. 4 



50 A Brilliant Woma?z. 

Placing it inside his coat, he turned once more 
towards the counter, where Mrs. Kingson and Archer 
were finally arranging everything. It struck him 
that Mrs. Kingson looked very white, but until now 
not the faintest suspicion had come to him that she 
was connected with the disappearance of that letter. 

Until now. But at that moment Archer was 
insisting upon proof, insisting that the lady's maid's 
gown was to be produced. The woman retreated 
to the back room, and, after some delay, she re-ap- 
peared, holding in her arms a silk gown degraded 
from its high estate, a gown he had seen Mrs. King- 
son wear often. 

Even then he did not suspect her, but she had 
by this time lost her nerve, and everything else; 
the close atmosphere of the little place, the closer 
smell of gas and of old clothes, made her really 
faint; and, catching hold of his arm, she made her 
way into the air, and hurried along the narrow 
street, and to the cab, where she crept into a cor- 



Discoveries. 5 1 

ner, and, covering her face with her hands, she 
said in a voice broken by sobs, as soon as they 
had started, " Do not condemn me unheard ! " 

"Condemn you, Mrs. Kingson?" 

"That letter. I kept it back!" 

" What was your motive?" 

"I wanted to put things before you differently. 
My husband speaks so bluntly. I was afraid . . . . " 
He could hardly credit his ears! Was it possible 
that she had done so great a wrong, and from so 
small a motive? 

She sobbed unrestrainedty for some time. Then 
she said, "Was it so important? Have I done 
very great harm?" 

^' You have nearly ruined two lives, " he said, 
'• you have made me miserable, and you have 
driven my poor wife from home." 

"I never thought" — she began. 

Something in his face stopped her, and she sank 
back frightened and ashamed. She had but one 

••'^'^f '^SfTY OF 



52 A Brilliant IVoman. 

thought now; she must throw herself upon his 
mercy; her husband must never know. 

" Mr. Burlington, I have done very, very wrong, 
but my motive was good." 

He turned round in surprise. Was she going to 
apologize? Did she expect him to forget all the 
cruel wrong she had done? What was she going 
to say? 

With real and unfeigned misery she clasped her 
hands together, and her tears nearly choked her. 
"If my husband comes to know all will be over 
between us." 

Then he knew what she wanted him to do — to 
keep silence. 

If he spoke and told how she had acted what 
good would it do ? Yet he had to struggle against 
the wish to bring home to her something of the 
sorrows she had brought upon his wife and himself. 
But he was a man capable of generosity. The 
struggle lasted but a short time. 



Discoveries. 55 

Turning so that he could see her face, he said, 
shortly, " My advice to you, Mrs. Kingson, is to 
confess to your husband — to tell him everything. 
A secret is an ugly thing between husband and 
wife. As regards myself, I will never tell him. 

" Hush ! " he exclaimed, as incoherent and passionate 
expressions of gratitude broke from her, "I must, 
on my side, make conditions. I want to know 
what arguments you used to induce my wife to 
marry me ; I want to know how much truth lay in 
the statements you made me; I want to know 
everything. I want the whole truth, and nothing 
else. You owe me something. I claim this from 
you as my right." 

" It is your right, " said the subdued woman ; " ask 
me anything. I promise to tell you the exact truth !" 

"Quite plainly, and with no embellishments?" 

She repeated his words. Her misery had been 
so deep that her relief was proportionately great. 

" You told me, Mrs. Kingson, that my wife had 



54 --"^ Brilliant Woman. 

fallen in love with me, that she loved me with a 
passion generally inspired by younger men. I 
believed you against my own conviction, against my 
better judgment. I found out that I had been 
deceived. My wife, thank God for it, is truthful 
she owned the truth to me. That lie — I must speak 
plainly! — made me propose to her. What argu- 
ments did you use with her?" 

" I said you loved her ; but . . . that you would 
never propose to her (we all thought you were not 
a marrying man!). Then Maria wanted to prove 
that I was wrong, and that everybody was wrong . ." 

" I see you played upon her weakness, and upon 
mine. But what made you so anxious to marry 
her? She is unusually brilliant, and very lovely, 
and was much admired." 

" Her story, " she whispered, in a very low voice, 
« and " 

"The whole truth without embellishment," he 
repeated. 



Discoveries. 55 

" Oh, it is hard to drag all my motives to light, 
but there are my girls. They were growing up; 
they will soon be out. " 

" I understand now, " he said ; " she had to be 
got out of the way. " 

He spoke no more; he dropped her at her own 
door, and went home. He denied himself to every 
one except Aunt Anne, and he simply told her that 
the letter poor ]\Iaria had talked of had been for- 
warded from the Beryls to Burlington, and on to 
him, and that he could not wonder at her indigna- 
tion in receiving no reply. 

"In every line she shows that I have won her 
heart, " he said, with a depth of feeling she knew 
betrayed his fervent conviction. " I do not believe 
that with so much happiness before us this separa- 
tion will last long. " 

Mr. Kingson was so much occupied with the 
recovery of his wife's jewels, and her account of 
the den of thieves, that the letter passed completely 



56 A Brilliant Woman. 

out of his thoughts, and he did not ask a single 
question about it, which was a great reHef to Mrs. 
Kingson. All the same, she had forfeited Mr. Bur- 
lington's respect, and she was very miserably aware 
of it. 



CHAPTER V. 

MRS. BURLINGTON EN ROUTE. 

Nothing was further from Maria's intentions than 
to do anything that might vex, worry, or annoy 
her husband; only it never occured to her to con- 
sult him. Weakened by illness, and terribly hurt 
by the discoveries she had made, she was literally 
unable to see his side of the question at present. 
She imagined that he did not really love her; how 
could he ? She had been placed in so horribly humili- 
ating a position that she could not face him, or 
anyone who knew her story. She must go away 
and give him, at any rate, freedom from her presence. 



58 A Brilliant Woman. 

She made no definite plans. Though she spoke 
of tracing her mother — and intended to do it — she 
had all the hopelessness about this at times that she 
had about other things. But, though her mother 
might not be alive, she had a conviction that if all 
her story was told it would be proved that she had 
not been the faithless wife she was supposed to have 
been, and if she could make this clear, and that 
her husband would recognize the fact, her own 
position would be different; she would in that case 
not be ashamed to look anyone in the face. 

The crossing once over, she began to realize the 
distance between herself and all she cared for. Then 
she recognized what she had done, and her heart 
sank, and at that moment she would gladly and 
thankfully have returned — not to her husband, per- 
haps, but to England at once. 

She had taken a courier-maid with her and her 
intention was to go to Angers, to the convent where 
her mother had been educated, and to trace anything 



Mrs, Burlington en Route. 59 

she could of her mother's family from that place. 
She barely remembered her mother. Her recollec- 
tion was of a sweet, bright face, often covered with 
tears, it is true, but at times laughing, and always 
playing with her. And she got confused, never 
feeling sure whether her recollection was of her 
mother or her nurse. 

In Paris how full her heart was! How it all 
reminded her of her mortification when she disco- 
vered her husband's attainments. She thought so 
tenderly of him now; his unfailing patience and 
goodness where so many men would have been the 
reverse. In later days, since her illness at Burling- 
ton, he had shown her more affection; they had 
appeared to be beginning to understand each other 
better. Flora's faults enhanced her husband's merits. 

The six hours it took to get them to Angers 
were weary ones to her. She weighed over and 
over again in her mind how she could let her hus- 
band and Aunt Anne know she was well without 



6o A BrilHant Woviaii. 

betraying her whereabouts. She must try to remove 
the stigma from her mother which shadowed her 
love. She had always the intense dread of a possi- 
bility if she returned. She looked forward with 
horror to the chance of children who would have 
to be ashamed of her birth and her parentage. 
This thought spurred her on, and clinched her deter- 
mination when it threatened to falter. 

In the pleasant town of Angers, in sight of the 
blue line on the horizon of the hills of La Vendee, 
Mrs. Burlington established herself vShe chose a 
quiet hotel at the top of the hill. There were 
homeliness and a look of comfort about it, and it 
stood back from the road with a poplar tree in front 
that had been allowed to grow up as nature intended 
it to do, in striking contrast with the lopped and 
pruned trees everywhere else in that garden of France. 
It was with a thrill that she saw the convent in 
the distance, and reflected on all she hoped to establish 
during her visit there. 



Mrs. Burlington en Route. 6i 

The table d'hote was rather a trial to her. For 
the first time in all her life she had to face it alone, 
and she was relieved to find how few it consisted 
of — some eight or nine people, all a little curious, 
but apparently too hungry to exhibit their curiosity 
or satisfy it. 

How strange it was to see them bending over 
their food and eating as if they had hardly a moment 
to spare. All at once she started, for a nasal voice 
asked her a question. At first she hardly realized 
that she was the person addressed, but when she 
heard her own name she no longer could doubt. 

" I say, Mrs. Burlington, are you a stranger here ; 
do you come for pleasure or business?" 

Looking up, she saw a tall, rather angular lady 
staring intently at her from the opposite side of the 
table. She was evidently an American. 

"Do we not all travel for pleasure?" Mrs. Bur- 
lington said, coldly. 

"Now, that's a kind of put me off. Well, if you 



62 A Brilliant Woman. 

don't wish to tell, never mind. But if it's for pleasure 
I guess this hotel is not the one I would choose." 

" Is there anything wrong with it ? " 

" Wall, there's no coats, and without coats, to my 
mind, there's no society, and certainly no pleasure. 
I'm frank, you see ! " 

"Yes; I see." 

" I'm Lavinia Jemima Stocks, from New York city. 
I'm not ashamed of my name, my country, or my 
profession." 

She looked a little defiantly at Mrs. Burlington, 
and went on after a moment's pause, " My father's 
a dry goods store, and I keep the books when I'm 
at home, and I do something else." 

"Oh!" said Mrs. Burlington. 

" Wall, what's your profession ? " 

"I have no profession." 

"No! Do you do nothing?" 

"You are right, I am afraid; I do nothing." 

" But you're married ; where's your husband ? " 



Mrs. Burlingto7i en Route. 63 

" At home," Mrs. Burlington answered, and little 
understood Miss Lavinia Stocks if she imagined that 
in returning these very short answers in a dignified 
manner she was likely to be freed from her persistent 
questions. 

"If your husband's at home he does something. 
What does he do; has he a store?" 

" Good gracious, no, " said Mrs. Burlington, un- 
guardedly. 

"There's no need to have a scare about a store. 
It's a very paying thing. Well, then ... I know 
what he does. He draws teeth!" 

This was too much for Mrs. Burlington, she burst 
out laughing. 

"Wall — you needn't laugh. If your teeth are 
your own they're good ones. Are you ashamed of 
what he does? I very nearly married a dentist 
myself, but — he concluded w^hen he got older he 
wouldn't take the blame of me." 

" My husband has property. He looks after those 



64 ^ Brilliant Woma?i. 

things country gentlemen do look after in England. " 

" I see ; one of those everlasting swells that make 
a general muss of everything, and call it county 
business. " 

Mrs. Burlington was too angry to answer her. 

" Wall, there's no cause to look high. We Amur- 
ricans know that everything is pretty much in a 
muss in England. If you want to have good work 
done you must pay for it; that's my maxim. Wall 
— I suppose you've had a quarrel with him, and 
you're taking the air abroad till your temper's in 
harness again?" This was too much. 

Mrs. Burlington, who required nothing more, 
rose with a slight bow generally to those present 
and went out of the room, followed by a loud laugh 
from Miss Lavinia Stocks; and as she left she heard 
her say, "She's mighty high, but I hit the right 
knob on the head that time." 

In her own room she shed tears of mortification. 
Was this wh.at she had laid herself open to? Sepa- 



Mrs, Burlington en Route. 65 

ration ! She had never called her step by that name ! 
And quarrel . . . How could she quarrel with Cyril, 
who had borne and forborne so patiently? The 
elasticity of her nature, however, dispersed the 
remembrance of her annoyance, and when her maid 
brought her some coffee she was ready to go to 
the bank of the river and enjoy the soft evening 
air, in which was no moisture, for in that part of 
France no dew ever comes down to give chills on 
one hand and refresh the ground on another. 

Taking counsel with her maid, she decided that 
they should leave this hotel and go to one they 
had passed, where they would have better accom- 
modation; and, pleased that Miss Lavinia Stocks 
would have no further opportunity for showing her 
desire for knowledge at her expense, Mrs. Burlington 
enjoyed her walk, and went back to sleep as she 
had not slept since she left home. 

Next morning very early everyone was astir. 

Maria got up, and looked out of her window. 
VOL. III. 5 



66 A Brilliant Woman, 

There was a leisurely kind of bustle going on in 
the courtyard below — some big brown horses, with 
one trace unharnessed, were feeding under the great 
tree, shaking the collars and the bells upon them as 
if they liked the music they made ; girls with bundles 
on their heads; women hurrying to early mass, 
their white-winged caps sticking out as they passed 
swiftly by; on the river some heavily-laden barges, 
guided by long pole-like rudders from the centre of 
the boat; a troop of cavalry returning from exercise 
trotted briskly up the paved street. There were 
light and colour and movement under a brilliant 
sunshine; and Mrs. Burlington, w^hile appreciating 
it all, had that forlorn feeling consequent on her 
own self-willed action of being somehow outside the 
happiness possessed by every one else. 

When she was dressed, she gave notice of her 
departure downstairs, and was rather annoyed by 
the woman's satirical expression. Then, summoning 
a voiture de place, she asked to be driven to the 



Mrs. Burlington en Route. • 67 

convent, leaving her maid to pack and make ready 
to leave. On second thoughts, however, she left 
her the money to pay everything up, and asked 
her to meet her at the hotel, and she went there 
on her way to secure rooms. She found very much 
larger and better rooms, and took them at once. 
Then she drove on to the convent. 

There was a long delay when she asked for 
the Mother Superior. Her heart beat quickly as 
she thought that it was possible she might find her 
mother here, that in a short time she might feel 
her arms around her ; and each distant step sent the 
blood more quickly coursing through her veins, and 
she found it difficult to preserve her composure. 

Failure had never occurred to her. She had never 
asked herself how she would act, supposing the 
worst was true — supposing her mother had lived 
and died in sin. Now this possibility came before 
her in all its most terrible aspect, and she was 
frightened. 



68 A Brilliant Woman. 

Would she have to go back to Cyril, and humble 
herself, and tell him that her quest had only brought 
a deeper anguish, and a greater humilation to her? 

She seemed to suffer more during the time she 
sat waiting there than she had yet done. She told 
herself that she had put herself into a position she 
could not hold ; she had said " till she could clear 
her mother's name "... and if she could not 
clear it . . . Had she lost him ? vShe felt suffo- 
cated in that small room. Her head got giddy, and 
she rose to try to open the window, as she did so 
the door was pushed open, and the tall dignified 
figure, the benevolent face, of the Mother Superior 
was before her. 

" My child, you are ill," she said in an accent 
of profound commiseration. She pushed open the 
window and got a little bottle of essence from a 
cupboard in the passage. Maria choked back her 
tears, and struggled for composure while the mother 
spoke to her. 



Mrs. Btirlmgton en Route. 69 

" You are young, and you are in great trouble ; 
you must not try to speak just yet. When you 
are better we can talk together. Trouble and trial 
always look unbearable when we are young," she 
said. " Are you English ? Would you prefer im- 
perfect English, or shall we speak French to- 
gether ?" 

"I can speak French," said Maria, by degrees 
calming under the influence of the tender, calm, 
emotionless tone, in which, however, was sympathy. 
" My trouble is perhaps of my own making, and yet 
not altogether. Do you remember a lady educated 
here who married unhappily and came back here? 
She was half French, half Irish — Marie Rorke." 

"I remember her well. She did some very fool- 
ish things. She repented, and came here for a 
time. Are you her daughter ? You are in some 
things like her." 

"I am her daughter. You say she did foolish 
things. She has been accused of doing wicked 



70 A Brilliant Woma^i. 

things; and I, her child, want to clear her name." 

" For her sake — or for your own?" 

Maria's absolute truthfulness impelled her to an- 
swer, " For my own. I do not remenber her ; and 
she left me ! " she added, with a simplicity which 
was pathetic. 

" In the first place, as the most important part of 
your wish should come first, I may say, truthfully, 
that from my knowledge of your mother I am quite 
satisfied that she did nothing wicked at any time." 

" Oh, thank God ?" said Maria, in an outcry of 
joy. 

" But she did some very foolish things, and I do 
not think it wonderful that she was supposed to be 
guilty of worse than she ever dreamed of. vShe 
was, unfortunately, a very undisciplined character. 
Yes, I must say it, totally undisciplined, " added the 
Superior, severely. 

"Will you tell me my mother's history? Does 
she live ? Oh, where is she ! " 



Mrs. Burlingto7i en Route. 71 

" I am not certain ; but I think she lives. I do 
not know where she is ; but she is not in France. " 

" Not in France ? " 

" No. She was by her own wish brought here, 
very ill; we nursed her. When she recovered she 
got restless. To have the sea between her child 
and herself was more than she could bear. She 
went over to England to be near you. She has 
always been near you ; she has seen you constantly. 
She told us of your marriage and of her thankful- 
ness that your life would be a safe and happy 
one. Since that time we have not heard once from 
her." 

" Then why do you think she lives ? " asked Maria, 
who nearly broke down again, as the thought of 
her mother watching over her, never making herself 
known, always near her without obtruding herself, 
was an overpowering thought to her. 

"Your mother never broke a promise, and she 
made us a promise. She has a small income. Of 



72 A Brilliatit Wot nan. 

her own accord she promised that when she died 
that income should pass to us to maintain certain 
charities she was interested in. As we have never 
received that money, I think she must be aUve. 
This promise was made when your marriage placed 
you beyond reach of any sort of need, " said the old 
nun, always speaking in the far off tone of one to 
whom all mundane matters are immaterial. 

" Have you time ? Can you tell me my mother's 
story now?" implored Mrs. Burlington. 

"I have not time to-day. I am sorry, since you 
wish it. But come back to-morrow morning, and I 
think I can give you one or two of her letters. 
Take comfort, and all will be well." 

She rose, and the interview was at an end. Mrs. 
Burlington was driven to the hotel in a dream of 
felicity. What she would have given to have had 
Cyril there — to have been able to lay her head on 
his shoulder and claim his sympathy. 

She sat down and wrote to him, and her happi- 



Mrs. Burlington en Route. 73 

ness overflowed in every line. So did her aiFection. 
She told him to tell Aunt Anne, who, believing the 
worst about her mother, had yet always been so 
good and so kind to her. Like most letters written 
under a strong impulse of gratitude, or under the 
influence of any great emotion, the letter was touch- 
ing, it was so completely without disguise, or with- 
out any attempt to exaggerate or to tell a story 
in a favourable light. 

"I begin to feel how stupidly I have acted," 
she said, "and how wrongly; but you will forgive, 
as you have always forgiven, and all the rest of my 
life I will make amends." 

It was unfortunate that, when that letter reached 
his home, Cyril Burlington was not there to receive it. 



CHAPTER VI. 



THE TABLE D HoTE. 



Mrs. Burlington found her maid rather ruffled 
when she reached the hotel. The landlady had asked 
impertinent questions, and had not shown herself 

very obliging, and these complaints were new to the 
young and somewhat spoiled wife. " It does not 
much matter, " she said. " We shall, I hope and 
believe, leave to-morrow afternoon for Paris and 
home. And this afternoon, if you will order a carriage, 
we can have a good long drive somewhere. I want 
air. I have such a headache. The room at the convent 
was so close at first." 



The Table d'Hote. 75 

Pacified by the promise of a drive and the prospec- 
tive early move, the maid exerted herself to make 
things comfortable. 

Mrs. Burlington had really too bad a headache to 
go downstairs, and had some soup sent up for her 
luncheon. 

As she passed through the hall to the carriage 
she saw a great many men in uniform standing 
about, and remarked it to her maid. " I suppose it 
is some fete day we know nothing about," she said. 
The maid said nothing in reply but looked curiously 
at her mistress. It was not very pleasant driving as 
the roads were most fearfully dusty, and there was 
no shade. All the woods that appeared so very 
promising in the distance were the dense foliage of 
trees lopped off to within four or five feet of the 
ground. At long intervals came some of the large 
high-roofed chateaux always so immensely out of 
proportion to the size of the properties, and having 
no well-kept grounds about them. For the proprietors 



76 A Brilliant Woviaii. 

go to reside on their properties generally in order 
to economize after the amusements of Paris and the 
various bathing places, and try to save a little for 
the coming season over again. The smartest lady 
who in Paris has her liveries and all else in great 
perfection, is served by a man-of-all-work in the 
country, in a linen jacket or a blouse, and very 
seldom goes beyond the grounds. The forlorn look 
of untidiness depressed Mrs. Burlington, and she 
was soon tired of her slow progress. She went home 
and read till dinner was ready. 

When she went downstairs she found herself at 
a small table with one vacant place opposite to her; 
and, a good deal to her dismay, she found a long 
table being rapidly filled by officers in uniform. 
They used it as their messroom, and the hotel was 
their headquarters. Maria was afraid that she was 
going to be the only lady in the room. Already 
she saw many inquisitive, if admiring, glances in 
her direction, and, though outwardly looking quite 



The Table d'Hote. 77 

cool and collected, she did not like the situation. 
She trusted her opposite neighbour would be a 
woman. There was a strident voice and a well- 
known bang at the door, and Miss Lavinia Jemima 
Stocks marched in; raised an incroyablc, and very 
coolly surveyed the officers; gave them a sort of 
compromise between a nod and a bow, and sat down 
in the vacant place opposite Mrs. Burlington. 

Had anyone told that lady the evening before 
that she would welcome the American she would 
have laughed the idea to sconi; but she did wel- 
come her. She felt that even Miss Lavinia Jemima 
Stocks was better than nothing in the shape of a 
woman to make her feel a little less solitary. 

She soon, however, began to think it a doubt- 
ful comfort. Miss Stocks spoke loud and had a 
fixed idea that " no furriner understood English. " 

"Wall," she began, "we have better food here 
than we had down there; that's a fact; and coats. 
But you are sly. You pretended coats were no- 



78 A Brilliant: Woman. 

thing to you, and here you are." She laughed 
with exquisite enjoyment. "You are sly," she 
repeated. " Here are the coats and here are you. 
Now, I don't pretend that coats are indifferent to 
me any more than clothes. I love clothes. How 
those men stare. Never mind, do as I do, and look 
at 'em back again ; and, to Maria's horror she 
raised her incroyahles, and deliberately surveyed 
the officers again. 

" Cest tine originale'' said one voice, but Mrs. 
Burlington's reserved manner and well-bred air kept 
them in check. They grew a little noisy, and 
Maria suggested leaving the room as soon as the 
dessert was attacked. 

"I'm not going to flinch because of mankind's 
presence, " said Miss Stocks, " and if you had not 
wished to have coats in sight why did you come here?" 

"I changed because I found my room very 
uncomfortable, and also I hoped to have more 
quiet here." 



The Table d'Hote. 79 

Miss Stocks raised her incroyables, but this 
time it was to take a prolonged survey of Mrs. 
Burlington's face. 

" Wall — do you happen to know any of those 
remarkable creatures called horse-marines ? " she 
said slowly, " because, if you do, you had better 
tell that to them," and she laughed loudly. Mrs. 
Burlington was so irritated by her laugh and all 
else that she rose, and hurried out of the room. 

Oh, that Cyril was there! She felt the eyes of 
everyone upon her, and she saw that she had put 
herself in a doubtful position. Tears of mortifica- 
tion filled her eyes. What a difference when she 
was shielded by her husband's presence and when 
she was alone! 

She did not leave her room again that night, 
and she tried to read and not to dwell too much 
on a temporary annoyance, or on the promised 
history of her mother's youth. But the noise down- 
stairs continued till the hours were very late. 



8o A Brilliant Woman. 

There were billiards, and then much laughter, peo- 
ple went to and fro, and there was a perpetual 
rushing up and downstairs. Then Miss Lavinia 
Stocks actually came to her door, and would take 
no message and no answer from her maid; she 
must see Mrs. Burlington herself if only for a 
moment. " Wall, " she said, " you are mean to 
leave the table that way ! I felt quite scared, and 
one of those nice gentlemanlike officers came to 
ask me whether you had gone away because they 
made too much noise. I said no. Then he asked 
me who you were, and I answered didn't know; 
that you said you had a husband, so perhaps you 
had. ..." 

" Good night. Miss Stocks, " said Maria in such 
vehement wrath that even that obtuse person 
drew back, and, as the door was promptly shut, 
she was left soliloquising in the passage, and her 
indignation found vent in the following words: 

" Wall, for a fire-eating young woman, I will say 



The Table d'Hote. 8i 

I never saw your match ! " and, very much discom- 
fited, she turned off to her own room also. 

Long before the Mother Superior was quite ready 
to receive her, Mrs. Burlington was at the convent. 
She had hardly slept. Feverish and anxious, she 
had risen early, and driven off, leaving her maid a 
little bewildered by the incessant restlessness of 
her mistress. 

It was, so far, unfortunate for the American lady 
that, however amenable the maid might have been 
to tell or disclose anything, she had nothing to tell 
when she was questioned closely. Mrs. Burlington 
had engaged her for a trip abroad; she understood 
she was ordered by the doctor to take a short trip 
for her health. 

"And what is Mr. Burlington like?" 

" I never saw him. " 

"Never saw him! Wall, that is a remarkable 

fact — a very remarkable fact." 

Mrs. Rutter was not at all adverse to a little 
VOL. III. 6 



32 A Brillia7it Woman. 

conversation; she found Mrs. Burlington much too 
reticent. She had been accustomed to ladies who 
knew no language but their own. Now, Mrs. Bur- 
lington knew French better than she did herself, 
though something might have been added with 
advantage to the purity of her accent; and Mrs. 
Rutter found it dull to be running about with a 
lady who never spoke to her at all, except to ex- 
press annoyance about something she wished car- 
ried out. Again, in her capacity of courier-maid 
she had always been accustomed to plan the jour- 
neys and choose the hotels. This was quite taken 
out of her hands by her present mistress. " I see 
what you think, miss, " she said. " You think that 
if there was a Mr. Burlington I should have seen 
him. But, though I never saw him, I found out 
all about him in the neighbourhood, and Mr. Bur- 
lington does exist. There is no doubt about that. " 
"Wall -if he's a fact, he is a fact," said Miss 
Lavinia. " There's money ? ** 



The Table d'Hote. 83 

" Oh, there's money, but not very freely spent, 
and accounts most pertickler done up every night 
in a book. It's always, ' What's the price, and how 
much will it be?*" I don't hold with rich people 
who think twice about every penny they spend. " 

" I despise them, " said Miss Lavinia, with a sniff. 
" I do hate your English swells that walk five times 
round a farthing before they give it away. " 

" The servants don't understand about all the 
leaving home and everything. Then, to be quite 
fair, I must say they said Mrs. Burlington had had 
fever — typhoid. " 

" Goodness gracious ! Is it infectious ? " exclaimed 
Miss Lavinia. 

" Not as far on as this, " said Mrs. Rutter, with 
a rather contemptuous smile. 

"Now, what on earth is she doing at that con- 
vent ? " exclaimed Miss Lavinia. 

"Mrs. Burlington is that reserved that I could 
not say ; but I always feel, when people are so very 



84 A Brilliant Woman. 

careful, they have their reasons, " said Mrs. Rutter. 

"Ah, wall " said Miss Lavinia. "Mr. Bur- 
lington's a fact. That's something. I wonder, as 
his wife's been ill, why he did not come to look 
after her. It would seem more natural, eh?" 

Mrs. Rutter's lips were tightly compressed as one 
who says, " I know a good deal more than I choos e 
to say. " And Miss Lavinia understood the expression. 

"Has your lady got as good a room as I have?" 
she asked, throwing open her door and bidding 
Mrs. Rutter enter. 

" It's larger, " said Mrs. Rutter, " and it looks 
different. My lady has such a lot of silver things 
in her bag. It's a deal of worry carrying all that 
silver about. I'm sure that bag is as heavy as 
lead; and when ladies take no footman it's too 
much. I'm one for consistency, " said Mrs. Rutter, 
who had begun to dislike her mistress very much, 
and still more since she had emphasised her griev- 
ances by talking about them. 



The Table d'Hote, 85 

Her exposition had quite a different effect from 
the one she expected. Miss Lavinia was much 
impressed by this account of the silver, which was, 
as she would have put it, a "fact" — she might per- 
haps have added, a "sohd" fact. 

Ignorant of having given any offence, Mrs. Bur- 
lington was sitting waiting for the sweet-faced old 
nun who had already given her so much comfort. 
When she entered she came with her hands full of 
papers neatly tied up together, and she placed these 
at once in her visitor's hands. 

"Read these by-and-by," she said; "my avoca- 
tion does not permit me to be very long with you. 
Those letters give you the history of your mother's 
life after her marriage. I can tell you of her only 
before she left us. 

" Her father was an Irishman, a man of good 
family, and he married a French girl — a pretty, 
graceful creature. They had very little money, and 
neither of them knew how to make good use of 



86 A Brilliaitt Woman. 

that little. They were often in great straits . . . 

" It is wonderful how people exist — how they 
manage to get on. Even with the little daughter, 
the two somehow struggled on! 

"As she got older she came here every day. 
In her shabby little frock, without any sort of assist- 
ance from her dress, she was more lovely, more 
graceful than I can describe. Ah ! my child, even 
now I grieve to think of all that tender soul had 
to endure ! Her mother fell ill. She saw this adored 
mother in want of everything! Against our 
prayers and entreaties she took a step we all deeply, 
bitterly regretted! A Spanish musician, who gave 
lessons in the neighbourhood, was immensely struck 
by your mother's lovely and graceful figure, and 
he taught her to dance. 

" She danced with a fire and a grace which were 
something wonderful. She used to dance to the 
scholars here, and practise her steps every spare 
minute. It was like the dancing of a fairy, and 



The Table d'Hote. 87 

her little feet moved with a swiftness truly marvel- 
lous. She left home and got an engagement in 
Paris. She had an old servant with her, and no 
one ever had a single word of reproach to utter 
against her character. She went to London ; the 
sums of money she sent her poor mother. She 
wrote constantly. It was for them she danced, for 
them she worked. She called herself 'Donella.* 
She always talked of the time when she could come 
home with a little income. . . 

"There was a fire in the village where her 
parents lived. They were not burned, but the 
shock and the fright killed poor Mrs. Rorke, and 
her husband did not long survive her." Here the 
good Mother stopped. The recollection was very 
painful to her; she might have told how some of 
the sufferers had been carried to the convent and 
tended and cared for till death mercifully released 
them from their sufferings; but her moments were 
all too short, and her busy cares claimed her as 



88 A Brilliant lVo??ian. 

soon as she had kept her promise to the child of 
the girl she had loved. 

"I must now blame your mother" she continued. 
" I fully expected, once the necessity for exertion 
was over, that she would have returned here, where 
I offered her shelter and protection. But the excite- 
ment, the applause, the admiration she met with 
turned her from us; she remained on the stage, 
though still keeping her name pure and her fame 
unspotted .... Then she married. This fact and 
your birth were all we knew for a long 
time. 

"Some years afterwards, with the fire of her eyes 
extinguished, and her figure bowed from a severe ac- 
cident, she came to see us. It was terribly unfortun- 
ate that I was ill, and only saw her once. She 
told her story to one who had not known her in 
her bright youth, and who did not believe her . . . 
Your poor little mother had a quick, hasty temper, 
and had also a most sensitive nature .... She 



The Table d'Hofe. 89 

would not remain ; before I could interfere, before 
I knew anything about her going, she had gone! I 
have never heard of her — I have never seen her since." 

Mrs. Burlington had listened as only those listen 
whose whole future hangs upon the verdict to be 
given then. 

How could she clear her mother's name without 
proof ! How could she trace her career ! All 
seemed as far back, as cruelly vague as ever! She 
was most bitterly disappointed. 

" Will you tell me, my child (as your face betrays 
your disappointment), does much depend upon your 
tracing your mother's career ? Why are you so 
anxious to do so now ? You are married, and it 
seems to me that it might have been necessary 
before. I do not understand the necessity now. 
Will you explain it ?" 

" I married without knowing who my mother was. 
The happiness of my life now depends upon my 
clearing her name." 



90 A Brilliant Woman. 

" Ah ! then your husband did not know, and he 
visits it on you ! Poor, poor child, it is sad, it is 
terrible for you. Does he show no mercy?" 

" Oh, do not think this of him ! He is goodness 
itself He knew before. . . He thought it for 
my happiness not to know. But how can I live 
now that I do know ? How could I bear that any 
children" . . . She stopped with a deep, agonis- 
ing sob. 

The Mother looked compassionately upon her. 
"A proud heart and a high spirit," she said gently. 
"Your mother erred. She left her husband. There 
even I cannot blame her, knowing what I know; 
but to prevent your father's following her, to pre- 
vent his claiming her, she allowed him to suppose 
that she left home with the man who loved her. . . 
She declared that it was the appearance of evil 
only, and that he had taken her to a place of 
safety, and there bid her farewell. She called him 
her knight without reproach. I believe her ; but. 



The Table d'Hote. 91 

frankly, others did not, and I am afraid others will 
not ! Judge for yourself. " 

INfaria was trying to control her sobs. She was 
completely broken down by all this terrible rever- 
sion, this annihilation of her hopes. She had no 
proofs. The Mother rose. "In those records you 
will see what a good and pure woman your 
mother was. But her fatal error may leave conse- 
quences she never thought of; it is one penalty of 
deviating from the right path. If you learn some- 
thing of her afterlife, will you let me know ? And 
may I advise you, and say one word of counsel, 
as you are her child ?" 

" Say anything ! Advise me ! Help me ! " 
" If your husband accepts the facts — if even he, as 
a man of the world, puts the worst construction upon 
your mother's actions, and yet loves you — accept 
his kindness, and thank God for it. Humble yourself, 
and take this baffled hope as your cross, and take it 
cheerfully. Wifely obedience is your first duty now! " 



92 A Brilliant Woman. 

She laid her hand on Mrs. Burlington's bowed 
head, and, with a gesture of farewell, was going 
away, when her visitor said, " I will ... try I 
will take your advice. I will leave my address. If 
you hear anything, you will let me know." 

So they parted. Something in the holy calm of 
the Mother Superior's face gave a sense of having 
been in contact with one above the world, above 
its pettiness, its small aims, and its petty jealousies ; 
and yet she had sympathised with the feelings of a 
daughter for her mother. Mrs. Burlington had had 
a disappointment ; but she felt, as she drove away, 
something of the elevation of the Mother Superior's 
views, and she was comforted by the belief 
expressed in her mother's goodness. She had had 
a definite direction given her, and to one with a 
nature like hers it was also a consolation, as it 
involved action. She would go home and face the 
unpleasant surroundings, the gossip of the neigh- 
bours, with courage. 



The Table d'Hote. 93 

She never for a second doubted that her husband 
was there watching for her return. She had followed 
the letter she had sent him in thought ; she saw 
his kind eyes reading it, and knew he was sorry for 
her. Then, enlightened by some w^ords about wifely 
duty, wifely obedience, she caught her breath for 
a moment, and possible displeasure on his part, 
for the very first time came to her mind. 

Arrived at the hotel, she pushed on her prepara- 
tions, and sat down to read those letters. It was 
barely twelve. She ordered luncheon, and arranged to 
take her departure at one o'clock — a good deal to 
the dismay of the landlady, who had counted upon 
having a rich English lady and her maid for a 
considerable time with her. 



CHAPTER VII. 

OLD MR. WYNCOTE TO THE RESCUE. 

Mr. Burlington's annoyance and displeasure were, 
it must be allowed, very justifiable w^hen he found 
that his wife had gone abroad without consulting 
him. It is true that she had declared her intention 
of not seeing him, but he had treated that as one 
of those threats which are uttered in haste, and are 
never intended to be carried out, and it had not 
gone deep. He was startled now to find that it 
had not been an idle threat. To a man so com- 
pletely accustomed to regularity of the domestic 
atmosphere, where even the change of an under- 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 95 

servant caused a slight sensation, and where punc- 
tuality and decorum reigned, it was very bewilder- 
ing. 

It seemed to him that his part became more 
difficult to play every day. It was equally evident 
to him that his love for his wife, with all her faults, 
was tenfold what it had been. Even underlying 
all this irritation was the consciousness that the 
postponement of that complete reconciliation in 
reality hurt it most. 

Aunt Anne was in despair, trying to be just, 
doing her best to say what might console him on 
the one hand, and what she honestly felt upon the 
other in extenuation. It was a step she could not 
understand. She understood still less that one of 
Mrs. Burlington's charms in her eyes was her 
fearlessness and her originality. If she had been 
asked, she would have accounted for her affection 
by talking of her truthfulness. But to be absolutely 
truthful there must be fearlessness. 



96 A Brilliant Woman. 

"I am so sorry for you, dear Cyril! It must 
make you anxious. Poor Maria ! I wish we knew 
exactly what she has been told. It is not like her 
to go off without one line to explain things, and 
yet I do not know — it is like her if she could not 
tell all the truth. wShe is so frank, you know. ** 

" We shall never know all the truth till she 
does tell us; we shall hear it from no one else! " 
said Mr. Burlington, shortly. 

" That is severe, but I think you are right. I am 
afraid Mrs. Kingson has a way of putting things. 
I ought not to say it, I suppose. It is very wrong, 
but yes! I do think she is too much afraid of 
hurting and vexing one. " 

" Too smooth and a moral coward, " summed up 
Mr. Burlington. " Well, Aunt Anne, I must go 
abroad too. There is nothing else to be done. " 

"My dear Cyril, must you? Yes, of course, you 
are right, and yet supposing she comes back and 
finds you absent? " 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 97 

" You see, dear Aunt Anne, our temporary 
separation is known to no one but ourselves. If 
it gets about that my wife has gone abroad, and 
that I am in England, imagine how people would 
talk, and we must guard against putting any diffi- 
culties in the way of her going home. We must 
not make things harder for her. " 

Against this reasoning poor Aunt Anne had 
nothing to say or to urge, and she cheerfully 
agreed to remain where she was, and to let Cyril 
know everything that took place during his absence. 

" It is much better than my being at home. I 
am such a stupid woman about keeping things 
quiet, or concealing anything, " she said ; " and if 
the neighbours asked me any questions, I might 
give a wrong impression from anxiety not to say 
anything misleading." 

The wisdom of Mr. Burlington's arrangement was 

not long of proving itself in a practical fashion. 

The very afternoon after his departure, as Aunt 
VOL. III. 7 



98 A Brilliant Woviaii. 

Anne was sitting reading, or rather trying to read 
and to fix her thoughts on her book, the door 
opened, and Miss Flora Harrington was announced ; 
Flora, very smart, in a tremendously tight gown 
and exuberant spirits. She was very effusive. 

" Delighted to find you in, dear Miss Burlington. 
I am so thankful! I have been dying to hear all 
about everything. How are you, and how is poor 
Mr. Burlington?" 

" I am very well, thank you. Are you staying 
in town ? " 

" Yes, " and Flora cast down her eyes, bit her 
very red lips, and looked conscious with all her 
might. " I'll tell you all about myself afterwards. 
What I want to know now is all about poor dear 
Molly. Dear! how sad it all is! and what is poor 
Mr. Burlington going to do? Where is Molly, 
Miss Burlington ! " 

" In France. " 

" And poor Mr. Burlington here ! How sad I " 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 99 

" Mr. Burlington is also in France, " said Aunt 
Anne, not without a slight inward qualm and 
acutely conscious that she was purposely mislead- 
ing the young lady, who, under cover of much 
commiseration, was overflowing with curiosity, and 
impertinent curiosity. 

" In France ! " A thousand notes of astonishment 
and incredulity were plainly heard in Miss Harring- 
ton's tone of voice. 

"They are both in France/' said Miss Burling- 
ton in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone. 

Flora changed her position, and drew a little 
nearer to JNIiss Burlington. Then she said, " You 
do not place any confidence in me, dear Miss Bur- 
lington, and I am sorry, because, if you did, I 
think I could help you ! " 

" May I ask in what way, Miss Harrington, sup- 
posing that I want — help ? " Aunt Anne's voice 
was not friendly or cordial. She could not forget 
that this girl was at the bottom of all the mischief, 



loo A Brilliant Wojna^t. 

and, though, as a rule, lenient in her judgments, 
she was not predisposed in favour of a young lady 
who was so exactly the opposite of everything she 
considered a young lady should be. " I understand. 
Miss Harrington, that my niece and you parted — 
well, not on very friendly terms. You are ex- 
tremely kind; but till I know exactly what you 
mean, how can I possibly answer your question in 
any other way? I am not at all a good hand at 
guessing anything." 

" It is quite true, " answered Flora, a little daunted 
by the other lady's manner. " Dear Molly was 
upset, excited . . . Oh ! " she added carrying the 
war well into the enemy's country. " It was cruel 
never telling her anything. Poor dear thing! 
how little she thought of her marriage, and how 
much too good she thought herself for poor Mr. 
Burlington. " 

This was hard for Aunt Anne, but she was 
loyal to her nephew's wife. Looking at Miss Har- 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. loi 

rington, she asked herself whether the girl was 
only a fool, or whether she was malicious? 

iVIiss Harrington was getting a little uncomfort- 
able, she had plenty of impudence, but the calm 
scrutinising gaze of the well-bred lady before her 
put her a good deal out of countenance. "I have 
not told you my news, " she said in a rather hurried 
manner, " and I daresay it will not interest you 
very much. Still perhaps you will pass it on to 
Molly — that is if you happen to know her address. " 

"Very well," answered Aunt Anne. 

" I am going to be married. I am to marry a 
very nice man, passionately in love with me, not 
very much money, but, as I have seen for myself, 
that does not make happiness! We love each 
other! " she said with a sentimental gaze at Aunt 
Anne's cap. 

" I am glad " said Aunt Anne. " It is a great 
happiness to love and be beloved. I trust yours 
may be a very happy marriage." 



102 A Brilliant Woman. 

Her courtesy and her kind tone touched Flora 
Harrington's selfish, worldly nature. She felt it 
undeserved. Real tears came into her eyes. A 
good deal of her aggressiveness dropped from her, 
and she said in a low voice " Thank you ! " 

" May I ask his name ? — and you say he is not 
rich; has he a profession?" 

"Yes; his name is a good one — Harley. He is 
something in the city. He is a very good man ; 
so noble." 

"It is a great thing, indeed, " said Aunt Anne 
with all sincerity, " to make such a marriage. It is 
the happiest lot for husband or wife when admira- 
tion and love go hand in hand!" 

Flora rose; and, after bidding her good-bye, she 
came back from the door and said, " Miss Burling- 
ton, you may know it already, but if you do not . . . 
I know Mrs. Burlington wished to find out some- 
thing about her mother. I may be perfectly wrong, 
but from one or two things he said I think there is 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 103 

one man who could tell you everything about her." 

"Yes," said Aunt Anne; "who is he?" 

"Mr. Wyncote." 

Miss Burlington sank back in her chair. The 
idea that presented itself made her very unhappy. 
" Mr. Wyncote ! " she repeated, in a faint voice. 

" Yes. It is perhaps trifling — very trifling— when 
repeated; but one day he said to himself, 'She is 
very like that picture, but oh I hoiv 2inlike the reality 
710W.' I laughed, and asked him what he was dream- 
ing about, that he was talking out loud. Then 
he looked grave and said, T was thinking of a 
woman's past and present.' Then he immediately 
changed the conversation. I think ' the reality now^ 
meant Mrs. Burlington's mother!" 

She did not wait to be thanked, but she went 
away at once. She had gone full of a wish to give 
Aunt Anne an uncomfortable time, and to pay off 
all old scores. She left the house conscious of 
having been subdued and softened by the dignified 



I04 A Brilliant Woman. 

calm of the old lady, and her genuine kindness 
eibout her marriage. 

" It was generous of her to say it all so nicely, " 
she thought, "for I know I am very antagonistic 
to her, and that, as much as it is in her to hate 
any one, she hates me!" 

At any rate, she had left Aunt Anne much to 
think about. She got up and walked up and down 
the room. She was perturbed and terribly anxious. 
It was a difficult question for any one to have to 
answer, to one of her temperament doubly difficult. 
Did she wish, y^r the honour of her family, X.o^vA 
Maria's mother — a woman who had broken her 
marriage vows, and had broken the seventh com- 
mandment? What would Cyril do in the circum- 
stances? What would he wish? and Maria 

She knew that her one wish was to bring these 
two together to live once more in concord and 
happiness. She would do anything in the world 
to gain this end. All her indecision fled as she put 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Resctie. 105 

this aim before her, and this poor lady, who until 
then had never made a decision for herself, made 
one then. She made up her mind to write at once 
to Mr. Wyncote, to appeal to him — if need be, 
to confide in him — and ask him, if he could help 
her, to help her now! She would be guided by 
circumstances afterwards. If Mrs. Burlington's mother 
had sunk into wretchedness she could be relieved, 
and Cyril would help. But it would be better to 
know, and to put an end to all the misery, all the 
uncertainty hanging over their house. Without 
giving herself time to change her mind or to worry 
herself by considering the question in its wider 
aspect Aunt Anne sat down and wrote to Mr. 
Wyncote. 

He would be surprised by a letter from her ; but 
she wanted to know whether he could tell her any- 
thing of Mrs. Kingson (nee Rorke), of her present 
abode, if alive, and whether there was any reason 
why she might not be received by her nephew and 



io6 A Brilliant Woman. 

his wife. It was certainly a diplomatic letter, and 
Miss Burlington was justly proud of it. Then, having 
sent it off, she nerved herself to await an answer 
which might be of such immense importance to 
them all. 

Between that evening and the second day of the 
departure of her letter, Miss Burlington had many 
unhappy moments. All those proverbs about let- 
ting things alone danced before her eyes, to her 
great torment. Had she done wrong? and, if harm 
came, was her motive one that would excuse her 
to Cyril and his wife ? She suffered much, and she 
had spasms of regret. Why had she interfered ? 

So often the reasons that appeared so pressing 
and so excellent before we commit ourselves to a 
line of action appear so insufficient afterwards! 

Her letter was despatched on a Tuesday, and on 
Thursday Miss Burlington got her answer. Not in 
the shape of a letter. A visitor was announced; 
and the tall figure of old Mr. Wyncote, the man 



Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue, 107 

who never left his home, stood before her, looking 
huge in the small room to which (in the absence 
of Cyril) his aunt had betaken herself. 

" I have come to answer your letter in person, " 
he said, in his deep and pleasant voice, " and I 
will begin by stating two facts. Mrs. Kingson 
lives ; and there is no reason why your nephew and 
her daughter should object to seeing her in their 
house. There is every reason why they should be 
proud of doing so." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

FRIENDS ? 

Aunt Anne, accustomed to self-control, and not 
a woman given to tears as a rule, was quite over- 
come by an answer so consolatory. Two big tears 
rolled over her face, and made the man before her 
understand better than anything else could have 
done the tension of feeling under which her appeal 
to him had been made. He honoured her for the 
evidence of so much feeling, and having come more 
because he was thankful at last to have an oppor- 
tunity of vindicating the woman his brother had so 
passionately loved and whose story was so dread- 



Friends ? 1 09 

fully sad, he was anxious now to relieve Miss Bur- 
lington's anxiety also. 

" Yes, " he said, " Airs. Kingson lives, and has 
lived ever since her daughter's marriage, near us 
and near you. She is frail and delicate, as any 
woman must be who, from the highest, purest, and 

most unselfish motives, lives a life of seclusion and 
repression, seeing no one, and living without com- 
panionship, without affection, without friends. 

"Her aim and object all along have been the 
good of her child. For her good she has deprived 

herself of her society. Wherever her daughter has 
been, at school or in London, there she has made 
her home, and seeing her well, happy, and pros- 
perous contented her." 

"But why?" asked Miss Burlington. "If she is 
what you say, why hasshe thought this necessary ?" 

"Because she made one mistake, though she 
committed no sin. She was married by a trick, by 
a fraud, to Mr. Kingson, whom she did not love, 



no A Brilliant Woman. 

and thus parted from the man she loved. Mr. King- 
son was an unspeakable villain ! He drank, and 
the life she led with him was horrible. 

" She knew nothing of the law, or of the protec- 
tion she might have claimed; he had sent away 
her child, and he nearly killed her. She thought 
the only way out of his clutches was to run away 
in such a manner as to make him believe the worst ; 
and, poor soul, this she did. There was but one 
man in the world whom, for her sake, for the sake 
of the days when they had been all the world to 
each other — my brother, in short — she could trust 
to help her, to act with her ! 

" He did help her, he left home with her — took 
care to be seen with her leaving the house. He 
took her straight to the convent, and left her there. 
By her own wish they never met again. You 
know the rest of the story, I think. Mr. Kingson 
sent a challenge to my brother, whom he believed 
and hoped had left the country, and my brother 



Friends ? 1 1 1 

accepted the challenge, and killed the meanest 
wretch the earth ever received. 

" Mrs. Kingson had a small income, and she 
took rooms as near her child as possible. I am 
not certain," said Mr. Wyncote, after some hesita- 
tion, " but I think that when the shock and horror 
of it all had passed in some degree she thought 
she had taken an exaggerated view of her position, 
and I fancy she had an inter^'iew more than once 
with her sister-in-law, the aunt in whose hands her 
child was placed." 

This was a startling idea to Miss Burlington. 
Was it possible that Mrs. Kingson knew of the 
mother's nearness, and that she was blameless? 
And, if this was so, what motive had weighed with 
her and prompted her actions? 

Mr. Wyncote sat down near her. " It must be 
a difficult position for you in many ways. Miss 
Burlington," he said, with very real sympathy; 
" but you can, perhaps, enter into all I feel about 



112 A Brilliant Woman. 

it. No, not all, for you do not know the mother 
—the gentlest and most unselfish of human beings. 
Think what it must have been for her to make a 
life apart from her child, sacrificing the happiness 
of her whole life rather than risk that child's future ! 
Her hfe blameless, and yet secluding herself as if 
she was guilty. My poor brother was a reckless 
man, and talked and acted wildly enough. It was 
the loss of the girl he so passionately loved that 
drove him to despair. It was his love for that 
same woman that enabled him to play the part he 
did regarding her, and then, in a frenzy of horror, 
and deeper despair, made him rejoice in the op- 
portunity afforded him of punishing the author of 
his misery and hers! I do not defend him. But 
if I had time to tell you of that man's treachery, 
how my marriage was twisted into being his, 
and how that poor soul was hunted and perse- 
cuted!—" 

He stopped, for Miss Burlington's face showed 



Friends ? 113 

how deeply she felt his words, and he was anxious 
not to distress her. He had succeeded in giving 
her a better impression of Mrs. Kingson, and he 
hoped that through her a reunion of mother and 
daughter might be brought about in the future. 

'■ You have placed a new and very hopeful solu- 
tion to our difficulties before me," said Miss Bur- 
lington, very gratefully. " It is kind of you to have 
come, because these things gain by being told as 
you have told me the story of Alaria's mother. 
]\Iaria has gone to France to trace her mother. 
She imagined her to be there. ]My nephew has 
followed her. Deception of any kind hurts in the 
end, and in return for your kindness I will tell you 
all that has passed and how it came to pass." 

" You may feel sure your confidence will not be 
given to an unworthy or an untrustworthy man," 
said ^Ir. Wyncote gravely, reading in her face all 
the confficting emotions which he could so tho- 
roughly understand. 

VOL. III. 8 



114 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

Then Miss Burlington told him how all had 
been concealed from her nephew's wife, and how 
at last it had been blurted out, and the bad effects 
of this sudden revelation. 

" It seems to me that one satisfaction lies in this 
painful story which is frequently absent from other 
events. " 

" One satisfaction ! " 

" Yes ; the blame can be put upon the right 
head, " he answered grimly. " From beginning to 
end Mrs. Kingson seems to have acted with but 
one object in view, how best to secure her own 
ends. She took the child because her husband 
insisted, and she could not help herself Then she 
wanted to turn her beauty and talents to account, 
and use them to draw pleasant society round her. 
Then she got rid of her, and, being" a weak as 
well as a worldly woman, once her object was 
achieved, she turned upon her and rent her. " This 
summary was, if severe, too true to be contradicted. 



Friends f 115 

The question now pressing upon Miss Burlington 
was what her next step was to be. 

And it came as a surprise to Mr. Wyncote, who 
did not know much of feminine idiosyncrasies, that 
the woman who had opened her heart to him — a 
stranger, — and who had shown great decision in a 
momentous question, should now be so vacillating 
and so wavering. 

Whether to wait for Cyril's return or to make 
friends w^ith Maria's mother, and surprise the two 
on their return by a personal acquaintance with the 
object of their search, seemed to present to her 
alternately advantages or disadvantages. 

^Ir. Wyncote could not follow the swift working 
of her mind. He himself was most eager, most 
anxious, to take good news and good tidings to the 
unselfish, brave woman he had learned to reverence 
as he did reverence Maria's mother. 

But, though the complex attitude of Miss Bur- 
lington's mind was a problem he could not solve, 



1 1 6 A Brilliant Woman. 

he was fully aware of a truth only too often for- 
gotten ; that if any good is to come of an action 
involving thought, it must arise spontaneously and 
from conviction, and not from outside influence; 
therefore he sat silent, saying no word to bias her 
decision. Then it came. 

" I should like to see Mrs. Kingson. I should 
like to become acquainted with a mother so unselfish 
as you represent her to be — as indeed she must be, " 
added Aunt Anne, with a tender inflection in her voice. 

" I am sure you are right. I am sure you will 
like her," Mr. Wyncote said heartily. 

" And how is it to be managed? " Aunt Anne once 
more seemed a little bewildered. 

Mr. Wyncote smiled. " Mrs. Kingson will come 
up to London; she will come and see you, or will 
you go and find her? She will go to a private 
hotel I know of." 

" Oh , I will go and see her. I want to pay her 
every respect," said Miss Burlington, heartily. 



Friends ? wj 

Mr. Wyncote knew now that the cause was won. 
He was offered, and accepted^ luncheon. He was 
a delightful companion, had read much, and quite 
won Aunt Anne's heart by his appreciation of books 
she cared for. Somehow, the old traditions of his 
wild conduct, and of the reckless behaviour of his 
brother, had kept him from making friends with his 
neighbours, added to his own love of a secluded life. 

Aunt Anne began to see that in the past her 
judgment had been narrow and prejudiced. How 
often she had been in deadly anxiety for fear this 
man should acquire any influence over Cyril ! Now 
she asked herself what she had dreaded. They 
parted with a friendly feeling on both sides, and Miss 
Burlington began a letter to Cyril explaining what 
had passed, and leaving it open that she might 
add her impressions of his " mother-in-law. " 

How she prayed and trusted that the picture set 
before her by Mr. Wyncote might be realised, and her 
invitation to be friends justified by the happiest results. 



CHAPTER IX. 



ALONE IN LONDON. 



Marl\, much to her maid's surprise, elected to 
travel alone, and she sent her maid into a separate 
carriage. She gave a substantial pourboirc to the 
guard, and, complaining bitterly of headache (no 
idle complaint!), she lay down in the carriage, and 
shrouded herself in darkness, as much as possible. 
Satisfied that she would be left for some little 
time to herself, she pushed aside the curtain on the 
farther side of the carriage, and, drawing out the 
packet of letters, she read with absorbing interest 
the scanty details of her mother's life. As she read. 



Alone in London. 119 

her eyes flashed and her lips curved into a smile. 
Truth lay on every page. " Even with no other 
proof than this, my husband will believe! Thank 
God! Thank God! " she said. Then she thought 
bitterly of her mother's trials and humiliations. The 
great unselfishness throughout struck her with over- 
whelming force ; that this life of repression or seclu- 
sion, without a friend to cheer her, or society of 
any kind, without affection, for which she evidently 
pined, should have been lived through and endured 
for her sake, thrilled her with pain. "My mother!" 
she murmured, half aloud. " My poor mother ! Ah, 
how can I make amends ? how can I ever make up 
to her for all these years?" 

Who was it that she talked of having seen 
occasionally, v\rho came between her and the happi- 
ness she craved for ? Some of her letters written to 
the Mother Superior were written from week to 
week in the shape of a diary, and here she spoke of 
having seen her child. There was one incident which 



I20 A Brilliant Woman. 

sent the tears to Maria's eyes, of how she had pur- 
posely stood a Httle in the way, so that in passing 
the child might touch her. "She brushed past me 
and felt the contact, turned round and said, ' I beg 
your pardon!' What a smile she has! and how she 
could love!" wrote the poor mother. 

The journey came to an end before Maria had 
finished re-reading for the twentieth time the record 
of her mother's unselfish devotion. She was startled 
when she found herself in the gathering darkness 
once more in Paris. Forgetting that her maid knew 
nothing of her newly-found hopes, she astonished 
her by her determination not to sleep in Paris. She 
must go on. 

"But you will over-fatigue yourself, ma'am; you 
must need rest." 

"Rest! Oh, I shall only rest when I reach home. " 
Then, with a new-born consideration, foreign to her 
character, she added, with utmost courtesy, " Unless 
you are very tired. I am longing to meet my hus- 



Alone in Londoii. 121 

band ! I am counting the moments till I get home ! " 
Never was anyone much more surprised than 
Rutter. Too well trained, however, to betray any 
surprise, she hurried to arrange everything, leaving 
Mrs. Burlington to await her return with all the 
patience she could muster. It was a heavenly night, 
and ]\Irs. Burlington sat on deck, a prey to a 
thousand conflicting feelings and emotions. She 
began to see so much that was hateful to herself, 
and that must have been so distasteful to her hus- 
band, in the way in which she had carried out her 
plan and gone off alone. 

Suppose that her husband refused to receive her, 
and refused to believe her? All at once, just as she 
had gained one part of her aim, and was wildly 
happy at having done so, the carelessness about 
his wishes, the self-will with which she had followed 
her bent, without any consideration for his feelings, 
became visible to her. 

wShe sat the whole time on deck allowing the 



122 A Brilliant Woman. 

salt spray to touch her face, and thinking of these 
things as she had never thought before. She was 
roused by an American voice, though the voice 
was not as aggressive as that of ^liss Lavinia 
Jemima Stocks. 

" Did you choose your place by accident or by 
design?" said the American lady. It was too 
dark to see her distinctly, but she was tall, and 
appeared tremendously wrapped up. 

" By design ; the centre of the ship a little forward 
is the best place, though I am a very good 
sailor. I prefer having my back to the other 
passengers, and I love the fresh sea breeze." 

"Ah, yes, yes. Is there room for two?" she 
asked, coming alarmingly near. 

"I am afraid not," answered Mrs. Burlington, 
very coldly. 

" Yes, yes, I see ; you're a little high. Now what 
on earth's the use of being high here? You're 
alone; I'm alone; and I saw you sitting enjoying 



Alone in London. 123 

yourself just when I felt squeamish, and I said to 
myself, Arabella Minson, you go by that lady and 
ask to share privileges. So I came." 

" I have no privileges. I have a headache, and 
I sought solitude." 

"Air you married?" 

"Yes." 

"Fancy that! and you air alone. Why?" 

Mrs. Burlington laughed. 

"Now, what does that laugh mean?" 

" It means that I am amused. " 

"You're a Britisher?" 

"I am an English woman." 

"And when you're asked a plain question you 
won't give a plain answer." 

" Why should I answer you ? I do not know 
you. It is not our habit to talk to strangers, and 
to tell them all about our private affairs." 

"Yes, yes, yes, you're high. Well, you think 
tall things of yourself; but one of the biggest 



124 ^ Brilliant Wovian. 

people in America is in this ship ; and she and me, 
we talked a good bit together. We are all on 
one slab in America, you know." 

At that moment two people came upon the 
scene. A tall, slight figure with a fur cloak on 
her arm. A man was with her. 

In a peculiarly pretty, refined voice she said, 
" I am afi-aid there is not a chair to be had, and 
it is impossible to breathe downstairs." 

" I have a chair here 1 can give you, " said 
Maria, as she moved her feet off one in front of 
her and pushed it gently upon one side. 

" I am so much obliged to you. But I hardly 
like to deprive 3^ou of it." 

Mrs. Burlington would hear of no denial, and 
the lady sat down at a short distance; then the 
man arranged a cloak round her and left her. 

Mrs. Burlington was charmed to see that this 
new arrival had had the effect of sending the 
inquisitive American away. She laughed and said, 



Alone in London. 125 

" What funny people Americans are! There was 
a woman here just now who took me to task for not 
answering questions about my domestic affairs!" 
" I suppose that was ]Miss Minson. " 
"Yes. Do you know her?" 

'^Yes," answered the stranger, in a peculiar tone. 
" All Americans seem so funny, " pursued Mrs. Bur- 
lington, " there w^as a dreadful woman in France — Miss 
Lavinia Stocks — I did not know how to get rid of her! " 
"Do you know many Americans?" 
" Well, you have now brought me to book. I 
only know two; but I suppose they are average 
specimens of their country!" 

" If you call me at all an acquaintance, you now 
know three. I am an American. Pray do not be 
vexed or annoyed! I was afraid if I did not tell 
you at once you might say something worse of my 
country people. I am very fond of my country, 
and very proud of being an American," she added, 
laughing lightly. 



126 A Brilliant IVovian. 

" I do not know how to apologize ; but it is quite 
impossible to believe that you are of the same race 
as Miss Lavinia Stocks, or that person ! " 

" x\nd yet I fancy you have heard cockneys speak, 
and are acquainted with provincial dialects in England ? " 

" Of course ; but she told me of some lady on 
board here who was one of the biggest people in 
America, and very friendly with her, and that they 
were ' on the same slab.' " 

" We are a little boastful, I suppose, " said the 
lady, laughing. " I suppose I am the person she 
considers the biggest person in America. My hus- 
band is very rich. We are Bostonians. Miss Minson 
comes to Paris and London every year to see the 
fashions. She is a very clever dressmaker, and one 
of three sisters who have a large dressmaking business 
in New York. I employ them a good deal. I have 
known them for years." 

Mrs. Burlington felthorribly ashamed of herself "You 
have given me a lesson," she said in a tone of apology. 



Alone in London. 127 

" O, no ! I meant nothing of the kind ; but I 
always feel regarding ourselves, as well as about 
you, and, indeed, with regard to all nations, how 
much better it would be if we knew a little more 
really of each other. You take two very pushing 
vulgar women as types of American ladies. We 
take solitary prominent cases of immorality among 
the English upper ten, and moralize over the immo- 
rality of all as a nation. 

" I have been much in England, much in France 
and Germany. I have friends everywhere, while 
American to my very finger tips. I will honestly 
make one confession — that in point of honour, man- 
liness, and refinement no race can produce the equal 
of a well-bred, well-bom, well-principled Briton! 
That is the result of my travels, and it is the opinion 
of most Americans who have seen the world." 

Maria said to herself, " Like my husband. " 

Dover was now reached. The two bid each other 
good-bye, and in the midst of the bustle and scramble 



128 A Brilliant Woman, 

that ensued, while she was standing back to be out 
of the turmoil, Miss Minson addressed her, " Well, 
you should be a proud woman. Mrs. Farley Peyton 
has been aifable to you ! " 

At that moment Maria's maid came up to her> 
saying, " I have sent the luggage to the Lord Warden, 
and have got a cab, ma'am." 

" Dear me ! " said Miss Minson aloud. " If I'd 
known she had a personal attendant, which means 
money, I'd have done a deal with her ! " 

Maria did not wish to stay in London, and she 
did not intend to take the maid (who was only with 
her for the journey) beyond London. She slept at 
Dover, went to London next morning, and on 
homewards. 

She was seen into the train for Worcestershire 
and was whirling towards her husband's place with 
her thoughts busy and anxious enough. Her inde- 
pendent step seemed much graver as she neared 
Burlington, and she rehearsed her arrival till she 



Alone in London. 129 

was tired. How would her husband look? How 
would he receive her? 

With a very thick veil over her face she got into 
a cab and told the man to take her there. He 
hesitated and said, " If you except to find some of 
the family there you'll be disappointed, ma'am. The 
house is shut up, and Mr. and ]Mrs. Burlington are 
away, have been away for ever so long. " 

" And the old house, Aliss Burlington's ? " 

" That's shut up too. ]^Iiss Burlington's with the 
others. The gardeners look after the grounds, and 
there's the housemaids and i\lrs. Butt, no one else. 
It's just a blank in the country, no coming and 
going now. " 

]Maria, who had been wound up to the highest 

pitch of expectation, and who was painfully conscious 

of great fatigue, was driven to a small hotel, where 

she had tea, and the first train back to London took 

her there. 

But fatigue and the disappointment and reaction 
VOL. III. 9 



I30 A Brilliant Wovimi. 

of it all sent the tears rolling over her face, and 
she wept till she was exhausted. 

Then a most provoking and exasperating thing 
happened. She tried in vain to remember the name 
of the place in Kensington where she had found 
herself on recovering from her fever, She could 
remember neither the name of the street nor the 
number. Indeed, she had never heard either. She 
had been too ill to take any notice at first, and 
her mind had been very full of other things after- 
wards. She remembered having driven from place 
to place; but cudgel her brains as she would, she 
could remember nothing more! 

What was she to do? Go back to her uncle's 
house and entreat them to take her in? 
Never! She would die first. 

By the time she had reached London it was very 
late — too late to wander about or look for rooms. 
She went to the hotel nearest the station and re- 
solved to write from there to her uncle. Then she 



Alone in London. 131 

made a disagreeable discovery. She had spent her 
last shilling, and she was not sure that she could 
get a cheque cashed here where no one knew her. 
At the small town nearest to Burlington she might 
have had everything done; now she felt extremely 
helpless. If she gave her cheque, it would put 
her into a terribly awkward position if the landlord 
refused to cash it. What was she to do? She 
sat down and wrote to her uncle, and confident of 
his coming to her at once and of his putting ever}'- 
thing right for her, she asked the people at the 
hotel to send the note for her. In about an hour the 
messenger returned. The house was shut up and no 
one was there. 

Terribly put out by this fresh misfortune, Mrs. 
Burlington refused any refreshment, afraid of incur- 
ring expense, and crept into bed fasting, which did 
not conduce to her comfort. It was wonderful to 
her how she came to find herself in this extra- 
ordinary position. In all her life such a want had 



132 A Brilliant Woman. 

never touched her, and she lay sleepless, thinking 
over her future plans, and how she was to get out 
of her difficulty next morning. It occurred to her 
that she might find the address of the doctor who 
had attended her, and summon him to her aid, and 
when this thought came to her she fell asleep. 



CHAPTER X. 

NEAR THE NORTH LODGE. 

The North Lodge, as it was called, which faced 
the woods of Wyncote Hundred, stood a little apart 
from the gate ; and between the park gates and the 
Wyncote Woods ran a narrow road — one of those 

country roads which at one time or another had 
been a high road, and that, owing to improvements, 
railroads, and other and shorter roads, had dropped 
into disuse, and was in a great measure overgrown 
with turf, affording now only an eccentric path for 
riding or walking. A few yards up stood a cottage 
on the Wyncote property; a pretty garden with 



134 -^ Brilliant Woman. 

flowers and espaliers, fruit and flowers in friendly 
companionship, sloped down to the narrowed road. 
Up the grassy banks were those lovely wild flowers 
that form the joy of children and botanists alike. 
The cottage had the well-kept look which charac- 
terises one in the hands of some one of refinement. 
The flowers were carefully tied up, and the masses 
of colour, arranged very artistically, made a brilliant 
setting for the pretty little place. 

Inside the place was extremely pretty. The walls 
were distempered in pale grey and very pretty 
original groups of flowers here and there gave an 
unusual charm, and formed a subdued yet a very 
cheerful background to dainty furniture, evidently 
retrieved from some place of far greater imp ortance, 
and yet not too large for the modest size of the 
rooms. Entering, one had an impression that it 
was more the boudoir of a grande dame in some 
chateau than the one sitting-room of a very small 
two-storied cottage. The one occupant of the room 



Near the North Lodge. 135 

was a small, slightly deformed, and yet graceful 
woman, with silvery white hair and very large dark 
eyes. 

She had some exquisitely fine church work on 
her lap, which she had been doing till the waning 
light put a stop to her occupation. She lay in her 
high-backed chair with its two arms supporting her 
little white hands, waiting for the light she had 
called for. The expression of her eyes was melan- 
choly, but her mouth, with its upward curve, be- 
trayed a temperament more fitted for laughter than 
tears. She was more interesting than beautiful, 
there was so much expression in her face. Her 
servant brought in a lamp, set it down, drew the 
curtains, and fastened the shutters, and in a few 
minutes returned with a cup of chocolate and some 
rusks. Mrs. Kingson — for it was indeed !Mrs. Bur- 
lington's mother — smiled her thanks, and for that 
one moment her eyes lost their look of melancholy, 
and smiled also. 



136 A Brilluint Woman. 

The servant did not speak, but nodded and left 
the room. vShe was deaf and dumb. 

Mrs. Kingson sipped her chocolate and eat her 
rusks with the abstracted air of one whose mind is 
preoccupied, and who simply eats to live. " T am 
fanciful and stupid," she said aloud, and, rising, 
took her lamp in her hand and went to find a book. 

She was difficult to please. One volume after 
another was looked at and rejected, and she was 
still standing undecided, when a step on the gravel 
startled her. In a few moments her servant came 
in with a card — Mr. Wyncote's. Her mistress signed 
to her to let him come in, and old Mr. Wyncote 
came in. He shook hands, and sat down facing her. 

" You have news, " she said, in a voice of re- 
pressed excitement ; " it is kind of you to come. " 

" I have news, and very good news, for you. " 

She pressed her hands together with a sudden, 
peculiar gesture, and did not speak. 

" Miss Burlington has sent me to you as her 



Near the North Lodge. 137 

ambassador," he said, speaking very quietly, and 
watching her face. 

She grew very pale, but she still kept silence. 
Her eyes never left his face. 

" It is her great wish to see you. When Mrs. 
Burlington — when your daughter returns, Miss Bur- 
lington wishes her to find you friends." 

" It is very wonderfiil, " she said, in a dreamy 
voice ; " after all these years. " 

Mr. Wyncote was much relieved. He was so 
much afraid of agitation or excitement for her, know- 
ing that there was great delicacy, and that the 
doctor attributed this delicacy to a very weak heart. 
But though he had written to tell her of Maria's 
departure, and all that had happened, as far as he 
knew it, he was wise enough to feel certain that 
no preparation would be of use regarding this, and 
that the bare fact simply put before her would be 
his best course. He rose and moved over to the 
bookshelf, affecting to examine the titles of the books 



138 A Brilliant Wotnan. 

by the light of the lamp she had hastily set down 
on his entrance. Then she spoke, and he went 
towards her. " You are so kind, so thoughtful. 
Will you tell me more now? Tell me everything." 

" I have so little to add to what I have told you. 
Mrs. Burlington went abroad to find you, full of 
that one idea. She is an impetuous young lady, 
it appears. Of course she will not find you, and 
she will come back again. Miss Burlington has 
always been extremely adverse to her having been 
kept in ignorance of her story, and she is very 
anxious now tnat you should be at hand, and that 
when Mrs. Burlington returns she should see for 
herself that you are ..." 

" That I am received — that I am considered re- 
spectable! Mr. Wyncote, you are an honest and a 
good man. Will you tell me the truth ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Will my doing this make dispeace between my child 
and her husband ? Will it make her life more difficult ? " 



Near the North Lodge. 139 

" No, certainly ; why should it ? " 

" Because accepting me in the abstract is one 
thing; seeing me claim his wife as my own, my 
very own, child, is another. He looks good and 
kind: but, is he not a little prejudiced? Think 
v/ell, ^Ir. Wyncote, I am accustomed to my lot. 
I can bear it. I can bear anything," she ex- 
claimed with sudden fire and passion — " anything 
except spoiling her life .... After all these 
years," she added, calming down again, with a sob 
in her voice infinitely pathetic to the man who 
heard it, and who knew what her life had been, 
" do you believe that, from a selfish wish to gratify 
my craving for her society, I would risk anything 
likely to endanger her happiness ! " 

" But, I assure you, all is so clear now in the 
eyes of ^liss Burlington and her nephew that there 
is no danger of this, and, my dear sister, your 
experience, the lessons of your life, are just what 
Mrs. Burlington needs. She has a strong will, a 



140 A Brilliant IVojiian. 

great belief in herself superior to her surroundings. 
Pride -when it falls is apt to break something." 

" Pray Heaven it be neither a heart nor a high 

spirit, " she said, softly. " I am in your hands, Mr. 

Wyncote ; when shall I go ? " 

" To-morrow. We can go to London together." 

She shook her head. " No. I would rather be 

alone, go alone! " 

" Very well, " he said rising, " I can meet you 
in town. Will you go to this address ? " he said, 
giving her Miss Burlington's number. " Not in the 
first place, of course; but when you are settled. 
Where will you go at first?" 

" Anywhere, every place is indifferent to me," 
she said, with a voice so faint and exhausted that 
he was immediately conscious how much she needed 
rest, how tremendously this news affected her, and 
how great the control she had exercised over her- 
self must have been. 

"Suppose you go to the hotel near the station 



Near the North Lodge. 141 

in London for a day or two?" he suggested. "I 
know the people; you would be very comfortable 
there." 

" An hotel ! " she said, with a gesture of distaste. 

" You would not dislike this hotel ; you could be 
as quiet as you liked. The landlady was in old 
days one of our servants, a nice good woman. 
Can you think of a better plan ? " 

" No, " she answered, " for so long I have simply 
lived in rooms. Till you arranged this charming 
place for me I took rooms where I could gei them 
nearest her, and rooms somehow never make me 
feel at home. I will go to your hotel." 

"And I will order rooms for you there. Good 
night. " 

He left her, as always on the rare occasions on 
which she received him, with a feeling of intense 
respect for her unselfishness and admiration for her 
self-control and absence of hysterical protestations. 
He had carried through a very difficult communi- 



142 A Brilliant Woman. 

cation, and she had made it simple and easy for 
him. Alas! how one act of folly, the appearance 
of wrong, had been allowed to mar and spoil her 
whole life! Ignorant of the protection the law 
would have given her, and maddened by the insults 
and cruelties heaped upon her by a drunkard, she 
had taken a step which, while innocent, was pur- 
posely made to appear guilty in the eyes of the world. 
Who, in these circumstances, would believe in her 
innocence? Then, in her anxiety to make up to 
her child for an action she was soon made to feel 

was wrong, she had given her up. 

* * * * 

Mr. Wyncote wrote for rooms, and made every 
possible arrangement for her comfort. But two 
days passed before the poor lady could leave her 
room. The agitation the strain, and the reaction, 
told upon her, and a prolonged fainting fit forced 
her to keep her bed — too ill to fret over delay, too 
full of suffering to note the flight of time. Then 



Near the North Lodge, 143 

she started, attended by her deaf and dumb maid ; 
and, by one of those accidents which are common 
enough in life, but which we call extraordinar}^ 
mother and daughter for the first time for years 
were under the same roof, utterly unaware of it, 
passing each other in the hall as strangers. 



CHAPTER XL 



ON HER FOOTSTEPS. 



Mr. Burlington waited in Paris to receive his let- 
ters. He had a conviction that his wife, acting on 
her impulse, would write when she had decided 
upon her course of action. He knew her so well 
now — swift decision, without giving him a chance 
of opposing her plans, then an anxiety to make 
amends. How often he thought over the position 
in which she had been put, and how severely he 
blamed himself for having allowed ^Mrs. Kingson's 
plausible and urgent representations to w^eigh with 
him against his better judgment. If we look back 



On her Footsteps. 145 

at our lives dispassionately, is it not true that the 
misery or unhappiness of our lives brings the words 
" if only " more bitterly to our lips than any others? 
Things which we strove to achieve, and which we 
thought of such consequence that we never rested 
till we had achieved them, appear insignificant by 
the light of experience — dwarfed by the fruitless 
results that followed our hardly-won success. And, 
on the other hand, trifles we thought so unimpor- 
tant have consequences that follow us through all 
our lives, and affect our happiness, and often the 
happiness of others. 

Now, as j\Ir. Burlington had justly foreseen, 
Maria's newly-born sense of all her husband had 
done for her and her own new sense of an affec- 
tion — all unconsciously betrayed to him — had made 
the letter which she had sent from Kensington, and 
which he received in Paris, one unlike any he had 
ever received from her. Here he also heard from 

Aunt Anne about Air. Wyncote's visit. Already 
VOL. III. 10 



146 A Brilliant Woinan. 

he was thinking of his wife as one more sinned 
against than sinning; now he threw reason to the 
winds, and forgot that she had ever offended. He 
followed in her track to Angers, made inquiry, and 
landed finally at the hotel where she had last been. 
Miss Lavinia Jemima Stocks was there, and lost 
no time in introducing herself to him as one who 
had made great friends with his wife. This he much 
doubted, but he responded to her civilities, as she 
could give him the most recent information about her. 
She doled out her news in a way that much 
irritated him, but he soon found that if he did not 
allow her to tell her story her own way, he was 
not likely to hear it at all. 

" Wall, " she said, " your wife ran round here in 
a very remarkable way. She was as active as 
popped corn on a frying-pan, and I can't say more 
than that. Just once in the twenty-four hours I 
saw her, and that's a fact. But I know where she 
went for all that. Is your wife a Roman ? " 



On her Footsteps, 147 

" If you mean is my wife a member of that 
Church, she is not. " 

" If you like to use sixteen dozen words to express 
a meaning I put in one, you may, " said Miss 
Stocks, with a superb smile. "We Americans go 
to the point at once, and we say out just what we 
think without circumnavigation. " 

Mr. Burlington expressed his impatience and his 
sense of amusement, and merely bowed. 

" Wall — if she's not a Roman why did she go to 
the convent, stay in the convent, and come back 
from the convent with eyes the colour of cochineals 
squashed ? " asked Miss Stocks. " A little of the 
black gowns, long faces, and grey walls and gloom 
and all the rest of it goes a very long way with me 
and with all rational people who are not hysterical 
idiots; and your wife seemed to be 'cute — for a 
Britisher — and it didn't strike me she was hysterical." 

" !My wife came to find a relative, and was much 
disappointed and grieved at not finding her. " 



1^8 A Brilliant Wonian. 

" Oh, I suppose she put that in the letter she 
wrote you from here. You see she said she had a 
husband. Wall, of course, that might be true, and 
again it might not ; but I saw your name and 
address on the letters because I made it my business 
to look," said Miss Stocks, coolly. "Not that 
addressing your letter and writing one to you proves 
that you are her husband," 

" Of course not, " said Mr. Burlington, seeing that 
the last course had come, and conscious of pure 
gratitude that dinner was nearly over. 

" Wall, I will say you have not much gift in the 
talking way. Why, you have hardly said twelve 
words since you sat down, and those twelve were 
not remarkable words — that's a fact." 

Mr. Burlington laughed. "I am extremely tired. 
I have a great deal to occupy my thoughts just 
now. I am a dull companion, for I am thinking of 
other things." 

"Wall, that's frank!" exclaimed Miss Stocks, 



On her Footsteps. 149 

wheeling round on her chair, and gazing at him in 
some perplexity. " You've come from England. You 
don't travel with your wife. That's odd. She says 
she has lots to think of You say the same thing. 
She goes to the convent. I dare say you are going 
there too. If you do just alike, think alike, and 
act alike, what I want to know is, why aren't you 
together?" said Miss Stocks, eying him sideways 
as she spoke. 

"You see, we do not discuss our private affairs 
with strangers," said Mr. Burlington, who had got 
beyond the stage of being amused, and was now 
intensely bored by the woman beside him. 

" Wall, " said Miss Stocks, " that beats creation 
and everything else. Those very words are Mrs. 
Burlington's words. She is Mrs. Burlington, I 
guess. " 

" She is my wife, and I must go now. I have 
business," said Cyril curtly. 

" You're wrong to cut your meal short. There's 



150 A Brilliant Wommi. 

a tart coming— and fruit ? " said Miss Stocks very 
solemnly. 

Mr. Burlington waited for neither of these temp- 
tations. He hurried to his room, and went from 
there to get a voiture, and drove to the convent. 
He went with much anxiety. It was only natural 
that, as regarded Maria's mother, he took perhaps 
the worst view of her conduct. The story Mr. 
Wyncote told sounded so incredible, so romantic. 
And romance to many minds appears in the light 
of wrong. To a prosaic mind what is out of the 
beaten path has a flavour of harm, and Mr. Bur- 
lington, reared in somewhat narrow lines had almost 
as much to unlearn, almost as many prejudices to 
get rid of, as his wife had to learn the lesson of 
life and respect prejudices founded on principle. 

His interview with the Mother Superior was one 
he never forgot. He was deeply touched to find 
how generously and lovingly his wife had spoken 
of him, and he was more thankful than he could 



On her Footsteps. 151 

say to hear all that the good old nun told him 
about his mother-in-law. It seemed strange to think of 
her as living, and living near him still, he believed. 

Of course there were many difficulties. People 
might talk, and their talk might be ill-natured; but 
^\^th his firm belief now in all that he was told in 
the present which tallied exactly with ^Ir. Wyncote's 
story of the past, he felt afraid of nothing. 

The Alother Superior was much taken with her 
visitor, and she approved of him still more when he 
left her a most liberal donation for her poor. Afraid 
of encountering ]\Iiss Stocks, he drove to the door 
of the hotel, paid his bill, claimed his luggage, and 
was on his way to Paris before that inquisitive 
person had realised that he had gone much in the 
fashion in which his wife had departed, " like two 
puffs of smoke." " Very remarkable people, very re- 
markable people ! but well-matched on the whole, 
fitted to run in the same tram car," said Miss La- 
vinia Stocks. 



152 A Brilliant WoDian. 

Mr. Burlington hardly tarried anywhere. He 
hurried to London as if every second was of impor- 
tance, and arrived there one fine morning early, to 
find every one asleep, no fires, and all the immense 
discomfort of an unexpected arrival, for which he 
had only his own impetuosity to thank. 



CHAPTER XII. 

WANTED, AN ADDRESS. 

It seemed a very simple thing to Mrs. Burlington 
to name her doctor, and ask for his address, till 
she found that five of the same name flourished in 
the directory without an " e " at the end of their 
names, and more than a dozen with an " e. " Earl 
or Earle seemed no uncommon name. This was 
very perplexing! It was much more perplexing to 
see palpable hesitation in the face of the manager 
when she requested him to cash her cheque on a 
country bank. She had not a single shilling in 
change, and her bank book, her visiting cards, 



154 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

every proof of her identity were most carefully 
locked up at home, or rather in Kensington, where 
she had left her desk and other belongings. Her 
trouble and her anxiety told against her in the 
manager's eyes. She had come downstairs dressed 
to go out, and she stood before him changing 
colour, and looking " odd " he thought to himself. 

No one could blame him ; she had next to no 
luggage, and no maid; and yet she represented 
herself as the wife of a well-known country gentle- 
man of means. Appearances were against her, it 
must be allowed. As she stood there hesitating 
and more completely nonplussed than she had ever 
been in her life, the manager saying " I'll telegraph 
to the bank, and if it's all right the money will be 
given to you then," a very refined, gentle voice 
made itself heard. " Can I be of use to you ? I can 
cash your cheque for you. " 

" Oh, thank you, " said Mrs. Burlington, gratefully. 
Then, . seeing a stranger, she added, " You do not 



Wanted, an Address. 155 

know me any more than this man does. I cannot 
allow you, a stranger, to do it for me. I can wait 
till an answer comes by telegraph. " 

"You need not wait. " 

The money was put into her hand, and the lady 
was hurrying away without the cheque till Mrs. 
Burlington went after her, and gave it to her. 

" I am so very grateful to you, " she said ; " may 
I not know the name of one who has done me so 
great a kindness ? " 

The lady gave a reply so indistinct that Mrs. 
Burlington did not hear it; and, judging from her 
manner that she did not wish to be known, she 
was too well-bred to insist. Poor Mrs. Kingson in 
the meantime gained her own room, quite over- 
powered by the meeting and the nearness of the 
child she so passionately longed to declare herself 
to. Her maid was alarmed by her agitation and 
illness, but gave her the usual remedies with the 
deft fingers of those, who deprived of one or more 



156 A Brilliant Wo man. 

senses, possess redoubled faculties in other directions. 

Mrs. Kingson rallied, but lay long in semi- 
darkness and quietness thinking with the overw^helm- 
ing joy subdued by doubt of the accident which 
had brought her daughter within her reach. Sud- 
denly a great dread came to her. What was she 
doing here apart from her husband ? Why was she 
alone, and Avhat was the difficulty with that cheque? 
Alarmed, filled with a vague fear that all her 
sacrifices had been in vain, she rose as soon as she 
was able, and asked for Mrs. Burlington. 

She was directed along a passage close to her 
own room, and was shown into a small bedroom, 
looking very uncomfortable, and occupied evidently 
by one who was not accustomed to look after 
herself, and who was bewildered by finding herself 
in such a position. Looking among the general 
untidiness distinctly forlorn, Mrs. Burlington was 
standing with the overgrown directory on a small 
chest of drawers trying to make out the particular 



Wanted, mi Address. 157 

Dr. Earle who had attended her in her illness. She 
turned round as ]\Irs. Kingson's dainty and graceful 
figure appeared at the door, and went with a smile 
towards her. 

Mrs. Kingson commanded her voice, and said 
gently, " I came to ask you if you would come to 
my sitting-room. It is more comfortable than this ; " 
and she looked round at her dreary room. 

Something peculiar in the voice and accent struck 
Mrs. Burlington. She said impulsively, " You remind 
me of some one. . . I cannot tell who it is. iVh ! 
It is the Alother Superior at the Convent at An- 
gers!" 

Mrs. Kingson made no reply. But she invited 
Maria by a gesture with a pretty mixture of entreaty 
and wilfulness to follow her to her sitting-room ; 
and Mrs. Burlington obeyed her. 

A sense of comfort after feeling so forlorn came 
to Maria. There was a pleasant cheerful fire burn- 
ing; flowers — that look of being surrounded with 



158 A Brilliant IVojuan. 

interests of some kind, which makes the difference 
as a rule between hotel life and any other, made 
the room comfortable. 

Mrs. Kingson drew an arm-chair forward, and 
Mrs. Burlington sat down, and leaned back feeling 
all at once that she had been unutterably dreary, 
and that the dreariness had gone. wShe would not 
again ask her kind acquaintance her name, but she 
had a dreamy sense of somewhere long ago having 
heard this voice, and seen those eyes. 

It w^as Mrs. Kingson who opened the conversa- 
tion, if it can properly be called conversation, where 
one interrogates skilfully and draws answers from 
another almost against their knowledge, and cer- 
tainly without their intention. 

" You are worried just now," began Mrs. King- 
son," and you are not accustomed to act for your- 
self — to be by yourself. Can I help you ? let me 
help you! How is it? Will you tell me what has 
happened ? " 



Wanted, an Address. 159 

Her manner grew more eager, her words came 
more rapidly as she went on. Her anxiety was 
intense. Running through her mind was always this 
thought: If my life-long sacrifice has been in vain! 

Maria had at first a natural disinclination to tell 
her difficulty to a stranger. She turned over in 
her own mind what she could say and Avhat she 
could leave unsaid. If she left something unsaid, 
how was she to justify herself in relating her ad- 
ventures, and she knew justification was necessary ? 

"You are thinking," said Mrs. Kingson, reading 
her hesitation aright in a manner startling to the 
younger woman — "you are thinking how much 
you will tell me — how much you will leave out. 
Well, I beg you will tell me nothing, nothing! 
I have no right to ask . . . But if I wanted to 
help, believe me it is not because I am curious or 
inquisitive that I also wanted to know. Without 
knowing your need, how can I help?" 

A vibration of what appeared to Mrs. Burlington 



i6o A Brilliant Womaji. 

wounded pride struck her painfully. This lady had 
trusted to her word. A stranger, she had solved 
a difficulty for her, and upon her side she had 
accepted her help. 

" My need is so momentary that I feel ashamed 
of having been worried by it, " she answered, with a 
nervous laugh ; " and there is so much that is absurd 
and foolish in the whole story that I am ashamed of 
telling it to any one ! " .She laughed as she spoke, and 
her laugh this time was a spontaneous natural laugh 
that dispelled Mrs. Kingson's fears. No woman 
having done very wrong could laugh in that way. 
"Ah!" she said, "your need must indeed be very 
transitory. It does me good to hear you laugh." 

"I hardly know where to begin; but the end is 
so far that I have no notion where my husband is ; 
and, though when the letter, I have sent him to be 
forwarded from home, does reach him it will be all 
right — at least I hope so! — I cannot send for him ; 
I have no idea of his address in London." 



Wanted, an Address. i6i 

" You do not know his address or where he is. 
You were then — parted ?" Mrs. Kingson's tone 
was full of an implied rebuke as if she said, " and 
yet you can laugh!" 

"It sounds very silly, but the truth is this," said 
Maria: "I heard something that fretted and dis- 
turbed me very much ... I will tell you ever3rthing, 
and you can judge. I believe you will not judge 
me too hardly! 

" I was brought up believing myself an orphan. 
I was much made of, and all I said and did was 
seemingly right ... I was told a man was passion- 
ately attached to me, and I married him. It is 
true I was talked into it. All indirectly. Though I 
did not deserve it, my husband is the kindest, the 
best . . . He is so indulgent and so good ! . . I 
committed a thousand follies, and he forgave them ! 
I spoiled his career. I made mischief between him 
and his best friend . . . You see, I believed in 

myself, and gave himi credit for knowing nothing. 
VOL. III. I I 



1 62 A Brilliaiit WomaJi^ 

Two years had passed. Then I found that I was 
not an orphan— that my mother lived. At least, no 
one knew of her death. 

" There was a story about her. I never believed 
it ; but some people did. What affected me almost 
as much was the fact (and it was a fact!) that my 
husband had been tricked into marrying me, while 
I, on my side, had been influenced by the person 
who brought me up. In short, we had married without 
any real love on either side. It sounds dreary enough, 
does it not?" she said, turning to the motionless 
figure, who was screening her face from the fire 
and from her visitor's observation. 

"It does, indeed!" 

"I could not bear the position of things ! I wrote 
to my husband, who was away at the time. I still 
think he ought to have answered my letter — he 
never did!" 

"Why?" 

" I cannot say ; it is so unlike him. " 



Wanted, an Address. 163 

" You are certain it reached him?" 

" Quite certain. " 

"You sent it; posted it yourself?" 

" I gave it to my uncle. " 

"And perhaps his ^\dfe — he has a \vife? she 
may have kept it back." 

"It is not likely," but as she spoke it flashed 
across her that no one could depend upon what 
^Irs. Kingson might or might not do. " My anxiety 
to know the truth about my mother pressed upon 
me terribly. I kept saying to myself, if she was 
good and innocent, it seemed strange her having 
left m.e to be brought up by others, and yet I never 
believed in her being anything but good! 

"You spoke?" she added, as the woman beside 
her made some inarticulate sound. 

" I think it was nice of you, good of you, very 
good, to believe nothing against your mother. Ap- 
parently, circumstances looked unfavourable." 

" It was not goodness, " said Maria, frankly ; " it 



164 A Brilliant Woman, 

was not altogether goodness. I am somehow always 
inclined to believe in the opposition. I suppose I 
am contradictory." 

"Ah, I see." 

" Looking back, I see now that all these new 
ideas, this suddenly being thrust down from my 
pinnacle, upset my health, and I must have had fever 
when I left home. ... I was very ill, and every- 
thing seems a dream to me now. I tried to find 
an old governess. I came away quite determined 
to know the truth. This governess was dead, and 
the comical part of my present position now comes 
in. I was so ill when I got into rooms in Kensing- 
ton, so desperately ill and delirious, and so ill when 
my husband arrived, and I was moved to a house 
he took for me in Kensington, that I do not know 
the name of the street, or its number, and I think 
he is there. I am hunting up my doctor, because, of 
course, he will know, and that will save my waiting ! " 
and her tone said how tired she was of waiting. 



Wanted, an Address, 165 

" It is a comical predicament ; that is your word, 
is it not?" 

" Yes. After my illness I left the house, taking 
a maid for the time with me. I did not care very 
much about her; but she was a good courier maid, 
and I went to France." 

" I cannot think how in your state of health — you 
look so delicate --your husband allowed you to 
undertake a long journey by yourself!" 

" Ah ! you see, I never told him. I feel now how 
wrong I have been ; but I made a vow that I never 
would see him till I could stand before him with 
my mother cleared; her name untarnished." 

A suppressed sob broke ft-om the listener beside her. 

"You are surprised," asked Maria, astonished at 
the impression she was making on this stranger. 

"I am — surprised," she answered in a low voice; 
"is there not something about leaving your parents 
and cleaving to your husband or wife?" 

"Mine was not an ordinary case. But I am sorry 



1 66 A Brilliant Woman. 

now, because writing would have done quite as well. 
I went to Angers to the convent there. I had a 
clue, and that was really the only way I learned 
anything. I saw the Mother Superior. I have been 
quite happy ever since. I can admire and love ray 
mother now!" 

" Though she acted very wrongly, foolishly, but 
she did not know, I suppose, then how wrong 
she was!" 

" You must not blame her. My poor mother ! 
When I find her I will try to make amends." 

"And you have not found her?" 

"I am no longer looking for her. My object 
now is to put my proofs into my husband's hands, 
and say to him, 'You cannot object now you know 
what she is. Find her out for me, and let us be 
happy together.' " She lowered her head, and went 
on, " When we once meet, my mother and I, can 
you imagine what it will be to me? Ah! to owe 
this happiness to my husband will be so much to 



Wanted, an Address. 167 

me; T see I have tired you with my long story, 
but I could not tell you one half, and leave the 
rest untold, because one part explains the whole." 

She spoke to ears that heard her not. Mrs. King- 
son had lest consciousness. To summon her maid, 
and try to help her, was Mrs. Burlington's first 
thought. But, as she could not speak to the dumb 
woman, and she appeared to be irritated by her 
presence, ;he was preparing to go when Mrs. King- 
son recovered. "It is not your fault," she said 
gently, in m exhausted voice. " I often have these 
attacks. ^W. will be well with you, " she murmured, 
" and now I must rest. "Will you . . , May I kiss 
you before you go — for your mother's sake." Sur- 
prised but touched at having interested a stranger 
so deeply, VEaria stooped her face over that of the 
prostrate figire, and was startled by the fervent and 
passionate Isses given her. Then she went out of 
the room. 

When she had gone Mrs. Kingson spoke rapidly 



i68 



A Brilliant Woman. 



on her fingers to her maid, and sent a telegram off. 
wShe asked for her drops, and sank into a refreshing 
quiet slumber. Her face had changed. The sad 
and melancholy look had given way to a complete 
calm, a look as if a load had been lifted off her 
mind, and the curved lips were parted is if a long 
continued strain had been removed. 

Mrs. Burlington was surprised to ind that, in 
the interim, her room had been changed to one 
much nearer the strange lady whose nane she did 
not know, and a sitting-room opened »ff it. She 
accepted the additional comfort gladly. " I suppose 
my respectability is vouched for by telqram," she 
said to herself 

There was nothing for it but to rait till her 
letter to her husband, addressed to Buiington, was 
forwarded to his proper address. Se felt ex- 
tremely lonely. She had no books and jo work with 
her, her new friend was ill, and she culd not dis- 
turb her. She felt very sorry for hrself, and it 



Wanted, an Address. 169 

was a new experience to so brilliant a person to 
feel dull. 

Through it all, however, came the felt relief about 
her mother, and her thankfulness made her tolerate 
the disagreeables of her situation more patiently 
than one could have imagined possible in one so 
impetuous and impulsive. 

A knock at the door roused her from a perfect 
whirl of conflicting thoughts. Turning her head 
carelessly and expectantly to answer some question, 
probably about lights, she saw a tall figure come 
into the room and the door close behind him. 

Springing to her feet, she faced him. He made 
a step forward, and IVIrs. Burlington, who had so 
prided herself upon her brilliant manner of carr>dng 
everything through by herself, gave a cry of relief 
and satisfaction as she literally flung herself into 
her husband's arms, outstretched to recei\^e her. 



CHAPTER XIII. 



TOGETHER AT LAST. 



Mrs. King son had telegraphed to Mr. Burlington, 
having the address furnished by Mr. Wyncote of 
his house in Kensington. She would not make 
herself known to her daughter till her husband 
himself sanctioned the meeting. Mr. Wyncote had 
taken her good news, and the woman who had put 
herself upon one side for so many years was not 
going now to spoil her newly-offered happiness by 
precipitation. It was due to her child's husband 
that he should be the one to unite them, and she 
had been content to wait. 



Together at Last. 171 

But to hear her child, her own darling, defending 
her had been almost too much for the poor lady. 
The drops given by her maid had produced a deep, 
dreamless slumber, and when Mrs. Burlington had 
gone to say good-bye before leaving the hotel with 
her husband she was obliged to write her a note, 
as the lady was still in a profound sleep, and, of 
course, no one wished to arouse her. 

" Have you any idea who that lady was who 
has shown you so much kindness, " Cyril asked his 
wife as they were turning up the road that led to 
his house in Kensington. 

" No, dear, not the least idea ; and I hope you 
will not try to find out, because I think she wishes 
her name not to be known. I asked her at first, 
and she murmured something purposely very indis- 
tinct. I felt I could not press the question." 

Aunt Anne was ready with a kind welcome; but 
Maria saw that here she had lost ground to re- 
cover. The elderly lady, indeed, had a struggle with 



172 A Brilliant Woman. 

herself not to show her annoyance. So much trou- 
ble! Such anxiety! So much running here and 
there, and so much discomfort. It was all very 
well for Cyril to wipe away all traces of resentment, 
and to welcome his wife as if all she had done had 
been done with his sanction. 

She saw the foolish, impulsive self-will, and did 
not see as much as Cyril saw —the illness coming 
on, the harassed mind, the reaction, and all else. 
Of course. Aunt Anne was not in love; and Cyril 
was. For the first time in all his life he was really 
honestly in love, and with his own w^ife. It need 
not be taken as an encouragement to eccentric per- 
formances, but the fact remains. He was immensely 
absorbed now^ with the coming meeting, between 
the mother and daughter, and he w^orried poor Aunt 
Anne much by discussing the subject with her 
without ceasing when Maria, tired out by all the 
emotions of the day, had gone to lie down. 

"You see, dear Aunt Anne, Maria is not very 



Together at Last. 173 

strong, and Mrs. Kingson has heart complaint." 

"Joy seldom hurts anyone, and of course it will 
be joy on both sides." 

"It will be great joy." 

"And when they have met, how is it to be?" 

" How do you mean? What do you mean? " he 
asked, a little startled by her seriousness. 

" Do not think I grudge those two this happiness ; 
very far from it. It is right. But, Cyril, my dear, 
dear boy, once together, you will never be able 
to part them, and are you prepared to have a dancer 
— an uneducated person, however good— at Bur- 
lington, for all time ? " 

Cyril had not reflected on this side of the ques- 
tion, and the matter put before him in this light 
vexed him. 

" She may be everything that is charming ; " he 
exclaimed. " I cannot imagine Maria's mother any- 
thing else." 

" But still you have never seen her. She may be 



174 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

vulgar, and anything but a desirable inmate in your 
house. " 

" She may be ; but it is against my convictions, " 
he said slowly. 

" And once at Burlington — your wife's mother — 
you cannot turn her out of your house. Once 
there she will be there always," insisted Miss Burling- 
ton^ firmly. " Then there are the neighbours. " 

" Yes, " he said slowly, " there are the neigh- 
bours. What do you yourself advise, Aunt Anne ? " 
He spoke in a rather lowered voice, afraid of a 
breath coming to Maria's ears. 

" Maria is softened. She is grateful for your 
ticn; thankful that you raise no obstacle to 
her reunion w4th her mother. I think I would, in 
your place from the first— just now w^hen she is 
peculiarly amenable to reason — put the difficulties 
before her. The stand you take just now will 
affect all your life ! " 

" You put before me a course of action nothing 



Together at Last, 175 

will tempt me to follow ! " he said, vehemently. 
" No ! My neighbours may act as they like, but I 
could no more spoil my wife's happiness than I can 
cut myself away from her society. Her mother 
may be a very vulgar woman — I do not believe 
it! — but whatever she is I shall leave things alone. " 
"Very well." Aunt Anne had great sinking of 
the heart. She could understand that a woman 
could be a dancer, and yet respectable. She had 
been prepared to receive her here where she her- 
self was unknown ; but she was not prepared to 
see her established in the beautiful old place, keep- 
ing all Cyril's friends and neighbours away from 
him if she was not presentable. She lay awake 
that night, tormenting herself, sadly conscious of an 
overpowering anxiety to see Mrs. Burlington's 
mother, and yet dreading the over-dressed figure 
she had conjured up, who would probably have a 
very loud voice and a confident manner. Hovr 
many miserable moments we give ourselves about 



176 A brilliant Woman. 

things that either never come near us at all, or are 
recognised as blessings when they do come! 

All the plans for telling Maria the simple fact 
that her mother was in London, that they would 
meet in a very few hours, were rejected by Mr. Bur- 
lington. He was over anxious about his wife's 
health, and yet all the preparation in the world 
would fail to be of any use. Directness is always so 
much the best thing, and anything else appeared 
theatrical to him. 

In truth, he thought more of the mother than 
even of his wife, whose heart seemed to be in a 
perfectly healthy condition. But he said nothing 
till the next morning, wishing to spare her the 
looking forward which to an impatient temper is so 
trying. 

Next morning, after breakfast, he asked her to 
come to his room ; he wished to show her some- 
thing. 

She rose with alacrity. " I also have some things 



Together at Last. 177 

to show you," she said, speaking with a certain 
excitement. " I have the records of my mother's 
life to show you. You are, I know, so just. You 
will not believe her guilty of any wrong, once you 
have read her story." 

" It is not necessary for me to read them ; nor, 
indeed, do I think there is time. I believe your 
mother blameless of all but one act of folly, for 
which she has inflicted on herself very terrible 
years of loneliness and sorrow." 

** You believe in her — oh Cyril ! " IMaria was so 
astonished, so overjoyed, that she could say no 
more. She took her husband's hand between her 
own palms, and pressed it fervently. 

" How good you a.re ! " she said. 

" No — just, " he answered, with a little sigh. 

"Yes; I believe in your mother, and that is one 

reasons I have asked her to come to us to-day, " he 

said, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if making a very 

ordinary announcement. 

VOL. III. 12 



178 A Brilliant Woman. 

For a moment he was afraid he had done wrong. 
His wife grew deadly white, and then the bright 
carnation tints stole gradually back to lips and 
cheek. 

" My mother?" she murmured. 

" Yes ; she is no stranger to you, dear. Did not in- 
stinct speak at all when you met her at the hotel?" 

"My mother!" repeated Maria, with moistened 
eyes. "Did she know me?" 

" At once. " 

" Then why did she let me treat her as a stranger ? 
Why... ." 

A thousand queries came to her lips, but she 
was so bewildered and astonished by the unex- 
pected news that she could hardly speak. 

Her husband was relieved to find how much 
control she had over herself. 

" Your mother is very thoughtful and very good 
to us, " he said, purposely trying to lead her thoughts 
to the present and the future. "She wishes the 



Together at Last. i 79 

meeting, the reunion, which, poor soul, she has 
pined for so long, to come as from me. She had 
misgivings and fears — very groundless fears once I 
knew the outline of her story— that our happiness 
might be marred unless I myself sanctioned the 
meeting. You can believe how thankful I am you 
should have this happiness. I know how often the 
question has disturbed you — and no wonder! " 

His wife's eyes were brimming, but she kept back 
her tears. 

"I have never seen your mother, dearest, but I 
quite understand that this tie once knitted again 
cannot be broken." 

" And you have never seen her, " said Maria, in 
a low voice. She understood all his words implied, 
and that, had her mother been far from the gentle, 
unassuming woman she was, he was ready to accept 
her for her sake. She leaned her cheek against 
his big brown hand. "Thank you. You are good 
and kind," she said, softly. 



i8o A Brilh'ant Woman. 

Then her husband warned her about her mother's 
health ; for he knew that in telHng her he was wisely 
giving her a motive that would more than anything 
else enable her to subdue any violent emotion. 

While they talked together Mrs. Kingson arrived. 
Instead of the overdressed and confident figure Aunt 
Anne had expected, instead of the loud-voiced and 
somewhat underbred person Mr. Burlington had 
dreaded, there came towards them a lady delicately 
formed, unspeakably graceful in manner, with a sweet, 
low-toned voice, and almost a timid and beseeching 
expression. Mr. Burlington greeted her warmly, 
and so did Aunt Anne. 

Mrs. Kingson looked around her. " My child ? " 
she asked, in a still lower voice. 

"Maria is here," answered Mr. Burlington; and 
as he spoke he led her to the library door, opened 
it, and shut it after her again, and left the two 
alone and together. 

" My dear Cyril ! " said Aunt Anne, "I am so 



Together at Last. i8i 

thanktul, so relieved! How could I make myself 
so utterly miserable? Maria's mother ig " 

" Maria's mother, " answered Mr. Burlington, anx- 
ious not to betray even to Aunt Anne what his 
own preconceived notions had been. 

Then they looked at each other and laughed. 
How unutterably foolish they had been! 

Aunt Anne was the first to recover. 

" I retract ever3rthing I ever said about her, my 
dear Cyril!" 

Cyril did not answer. But his satisfaction was 
certainly not less than hers. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

WAS IT THE LAST OF FLORA HARRINGTON ? 

Mrs. Burlington had one great disappointment in 
store, and once again Aunt Anne was led to understand 
how much unnecessary misery she had made for herself. 

Mrs. Kingson would not go to Burlington Manor 
and make one of the family party. She had a 
great many reasons against acquiescing in such an 
arrangement, and Mr. Burlington was obliged to 
own that from her point of view she was right. 

" Make as much of me as you like, " she said, 
frankly, to her son-in-law, "it is due to your wife 
that the world should know I am not a mother she 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington ? 1 83 

need be ashamed of; but after this fact is established, 
there are those two things in my career I so bitterly 
regret now. I cannot myself get over these terrible 
mistakes. People may be kind, but you cannot 
expect them to get over them any more than I can. 
I have my pretty home. I have my child's society. 
I accept from you, as her most kind husband, 
luxuries I never dreamed of, and every possible 
comfort. I am quite the happiest woman in the 
world now! Leave me my independent life, and 
come often to see me — the oftener the better. 
Believe me, it is so best." 

Maria, who had drawn a picture in her own 
mind of her mother's perpetual companionship, was 
bitterly disappointed. 

" Ah, child, " said Mrs. Kingson, " you see only a 
little way into the future. To the older and more 
experienced woman a longer peep is given. Why 
should you depend upon my companionship? You 
have all your life done well without it." 



184 A Brilliant Woman. 

" That is why I want it now, mother, I have 
years and years of loss to make up for." 

" And the companionship of your husband ? 
Supposing you and I were hving under the same roof, 
my dariing, your anxiety to ' make up ' would bring 
you from his side to mine. You owe him much ! " 

" I love him dearly ! Oh ! mother, when one 
loves, gratitude seems a cold word ! " 

" In one sense. You are happy, darling, and it 
sometimes frightens me when I think of all the 
risks you ran. You might have lost his affection 
instead of winning it." 

"I also think that sometimes." 

" Then, also, never forget this : a woman owes 
it to herself — to society — not to put herself into 
any position which is not forced upon her. There 
is much more meaning than young people ever seem 
to think in these days — to *do your duty in that 
state of life unto which it pleases God to call 
you.' Would I had thought this long ago." 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 185 

" But when a high motive urges one on. " 
" Ah, my child, the end never justifies the means 
when the means are wrong. You must not depend 
on sophistry when you wish to argue with a woman 
who has proved those very arguments to be 
wrong! " 

" But you helped your mother — your father. ..." 

"Darling, I might have done other things; I 

loved the applause, the success .... I might 

have had patience. The young do not look forward 

enough. They never see the consequences of their 

actions If they only did .... By my own 

folly I lost my position. Then, to get rid of 
my wretchedness, I simulated a crime I would have 
died rather than commit. Now I have to suffer 
for it. Please God, you do not suffer! For my- 
self, " she added, folding her hands together, " I 
acknowledge that my past suffering is just. I have 
deserved it ! " 

Against this reasoning Maria had nothing to 



1 86 A Brilliant Woman. 

oppose save affectionate entreaty. It was by Mr. 
Burlington's own wish that Mrs. Kingson travelled 
with them. She was much fatigued, and drove 
straight from the railway station home with her 
maid. As Maria and her husband drove through 
the park, she could not help contrasting her emotions 
now with her self-complacency on her arrival, and 
as with a full heart she was thinking with intense 
thankfulness of the richness come into her life, her 
mother's words, "what she had risked," came to 
her, and, with an involuntary movement, she laid 
her hand on her husband's. He understood her 
now, and sympathised so entirely with her! 

The light lay softly upon the tree tops, and 
sparkled on the windows. 

"It is like an illumination," said Mr. Burlington. 

"It is all so beautiful, and it is home," said his 
wife softly. 

Mrs. Butt and her troop of servants stood in the 
hall to receive them; and there was no feigned 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 187 

joy on her face. If she imperfectly understood all 
that had happened, it was an immense satisfaction 
that any gossip or ill-natured comments on the pro- 
longed absence of the family, and those expressions 
of surprise at so sudden a departure of the mistress 
of the household could be put an end to. No class 
feels more deeply a slur on the family than that of 
old servants bound to it by ties of sincere attach- 
ment, and deriving their own status from its 
unassailable position. 

It seemed to Maria as if everything reminded 
her of some stupid speech, something she had said 
that might have been left unsaid. Aunt Anne 
had gone to her own house, happier than she had 
yet been since the morning she so well remem- 
bered, when she had been troubled by Cyril's letter 
announcing his engagement. Husband and wife 
were in the dining-room together. The servants 
had left the room, and Maria, laughing, looked 
meaningly at the pictures. Cyril followed her gaze, 



1 88 A Brilliant Woman. 

and in his turned laughed. " You still challenge 
their originality ? " he asked gaily. " I do not, for 
some reason or another, care half so much about 
it now." 

" I challenge nothing. If you told me you had 
painted them yourself, and painted them with your 
elbow, I should believe you ! " 

" I am not sure that that is a great compliment 
to the paintings." 

"I was not thinking of them at all. I mean 
that I feel as if I could never contradict you again. 
I am quite afraid of the state of my mind. I 
am sure that it cannot last. I feel so much too 
good! " 

" I do trust that you will occasionally contradict 
me, otherwise our lives may be too monotonous." 

" Seriously speaking, Cyril, what I want most 
to know is, what can we do about my mother. 
That is the first most pressing question. Oh, we 
must put her right in everyone's eyes ! " 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 189 

" Believe me, dear, leave it to time. You cannot 
force people to believe what you want them to 
believe. " 

" Waiting seems hard, and she has been so 
wronged. IMy poor mother ! " 

" Waiting does seem hard ; but you must allow 
people to find out for themselves what your mo- 
ther is ; no words of yours, none of mine — nothing 
we can say will have the effect that she herself will 
have when her character, her manner, all else that 
is admirable about her become known ? " 

" But if my mother will go nowhere, if she will 
see no one, how are people to know ? " 

" In the first place we will persuade her to come 
to us when one or two influential people are here. 
It is wonderful how soon truth spreads, especially 
when it is the object of no one to conceal it." 

Maria felt that she could say no more. 

Mr. Burlington himself was both willing and 
anxious to put this matter as far right as possible; 



I go A Brilliant Woman, 

but he knew only too well that the very people 
whom his wife wished to conciliate and convince 
were those who must be left to arrive at conclu- 
sions by themselves, and that any attempt to argue 
or convince would result in nothing. They were 
essentially the people who, " convinced against 
their will, " would remain " of the same opinion 
still." In the meantime in the neighbourhood there 
was some excitement. Kindly expressions were 
heard from those who had the rule of kindness; 
ill-natured speeches from those carping, disagree- 
able people who are very ill-natured about every- 
thing. Every one was a little anxious to know whether 
Mrs. Burlington's mother would "show," or whether 
she would shun people. 

The Duchess lost no time in going over to 
luncheon, and it was known that she had done so, 
and after this visit the neighbourhood went also, 
with one exception — Mrs. Adleybourne. So little 
did Maria notice her defection that when one lady, 



Was it the last of Flora Harrtngtoit f 191 

a little anxious to slip in a small sting, asked point 
blank whether she had been there, Mrs. Burlington's 
answer, given with quiet sincerity, defeated the 
little bit of ill-nature. " I do not quite remember. So 
many people have been here. If Mrs. Adleyboume 
has not been of the number she is perhaps absent. " 

" Oh 1 she is at home. She had quite a large 
party only last week." 

" Then, as no one can be in two places at once, 
one could not expect her to be here and at home with 
her own visitors." This was spoken with so much 
open good temper, that nothing more could be said. 

Indeed, Maria now was in every way one who 
had gained much and lost nothing in the battle of 
life, unlike most people. In former days she had 
asserted herself unduly, all unconscious that, her 
position being undefined, it had in reality forced 
her into self-assertion. Now, with her mind at rest, 
an attachment to her husband which sprang from 
the full knowledge of his generosity and goodness 



192 A Brilliant Woman. 

towards her, the sense of rest and freedom from all 
anxiety connected with her mother gave her spirits 
— always elastic— a fillip and yet a softening touch. 

Prosperity, like adversity, never works in a half- 
hearted way upon anyone. It either softens, or it 
hardens a character. In Mrs. Burlington's case it 
softened her as adversity never would have done. 
While anxious to do nothing to which her husband 
could take exception, Maria would not have been 
herself if she had not longed to put right any 
wrong she had in her ignorance and carelessness 
done her husband. 

Her ambitious aims were for him now. Any 
plans she made were for his benefit, and not her 
own ; and the effect of knowing her mother's story 
was to cheek undue anxiety about being herself a 
prominent figure anywhere. That central position 
which she had at one time coveted had melted long 
ago it seemed to her, and sometimes with a laugh in 
which lay a certain shame, she would tell her 



Was it the last of Flora Harringtofi ? 193 

mother of her first and earliest ambitions. Aunt Anne 
was often at the cottage with Mrs. Kingson, but no 
one enjoyed her society more than Mr. Burlington. 

He learned a great deal books never would have 
taught him — never had taught him. All the solitary 
years, all her crushing sorrows, had not deprived 
Mrs. Kingson of the wonderful charm and fascina- 
tion which appeared now that happiness played 
around her once more. Her daughter had inherited 
much of her beauty, much of her brilliancy and 
charm, but it is doubtful whether she could ever 
have sacrificed herself, put herself entirely upon 
one side as Mrs. Kingson had done. Then one day, 
by one of those accidents of speech that the most 
guarded people sometimes fall into, Maria made 
another discovery. 

Her uncle's wife — whom to forgive she still found 

so difficult! — had seen and spoken to her mother, 

not once but often. She could have told a great 

deal, for the mother had allowed her to know where 
VOL. III. 13 



194 A Brilliant Woman. 

she was, and who she was, and had made once or 
twice a humble petition, which the other lady had 
refused. She had wished once or twice to see and 
have speech with her child, promising to remain 
unknown. And Mrs. Kingson had refused, and also 
had promised — and not kept her word — to put the 
case to her husband, thus putting the onus of the 
refusal upon him. 

"And you think I should forgive this, also?" 
exclaimed Mrs. Burlington, with natural indignation. 
"Mother, you are almost a saint, but can you say 
you forgive this ? " 

" My dearest child, when the heart is overflowing 
with happiness there is no room for even remember- 
ing these things ! " said Mrs. Kingson, tenderly. 
"Perhaps she was right. No one can be expected 
to act against their convictions." 

Mr. Burlington was surprised late one afternoon 
to find his wife sitting in his study, evidently disturbed 
and annoyed about something. 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 195 

"I thought you never, never, never were coming," 
she said, lifting her flushed face to his, " and my 
courage has been oozing away every moment." 

" Your courage ? What is it all about, darling ? " 

" I wonder whether my stupidity in the past is to 
affect my happiness all my life, " she said, vehemently. 

He sat down, and leaned fonvard. " Now tell 
me," he said, w^ondering what new phase they were 
entering upon. 

" It is a long story. It is partly about Flora 
Harrington — partly about young Mr. Wyncote. Oh, 
if you knew how I hate telling you of my folly, 
of my self-will, of my blindness ! " 

She stopped to recover herself, and then went on 
in a lower voice, holding herself more in restraint. 

" To begin with, there is Flora's letter. It is 
hateful. But I want you to read it, and to advise 
me. " She held out several sheets of very thin letter 
paper, covered with Miss Harrington's scrawling 
bold handwriting: — 



1^6 A Brilliant Woman. 

"My dear Molly, — I'm in a terrible mess, out of 
which you must please get me as soon as possible. 
My young man threatens to break off everything 
because some stupid meddling idiot has told him I 
carried on with Mr. W., and took him flowers daily, 
etc. Please write by return a letter I can show him, 
saying that the flowers were from you. This will 
put all right. Of course, I know they were not; 
but stretch a point for me, and I'll be grateful all 
my days. — Your loving Flora." 

Mr. Burlington read it, and returned it with a 
look of great contempt. 

" Advise me ! " pleaded Maria, earnestly. 

"How can I, darling? I am no dispassionate 
person. " 

"It is everything for Flora, I suppose, to carry 
out her marriage. How can I deliberately say what 
is not true ? That is impossible ! " 

"I know it is for you," her husband said, in a 
voice of feeling. 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 197 

" Is it possible that I ever called this girl my 
friend!" 

" It always seemed strange to me. But very 
young girls do not look deeply into the origin of 
their friendship." 

"I remember thinking her very goodhearted and 
very amusing. Now I see vulgarity and utter 
selfishness, and yet, if I could, I would help her!" 

Mr. Burlington could offer no suggestion. He some- 
times felt surprised at his wife's absolute unconscious- 
ness. She was utterly ignorant of the real state of the 
case that, to ingratiate herself with Mr. Wyncote, 
Flora had tried to make him believe that Mrs. 
Burlington was not indifferent to his attractions. 
For he had seen at once what was meant, and, 
while he knew his wife to be absolutely innocent 
of Flora's machinations, her very innocence puzzled 
him. As something of the kind passed again through 
his mind, Maria suddenly started to her feet, and 
her face flushed deeply. 



igS A Brilliant Woman. 

"Ah," she said "I never thought of it before in 
this way! But do you think it possible that Flora 
tried to make Mr. Wyncote look at things — made 
him believe that those flowers were from me?" 
She looked so ashamed and so distressed that her 
husband hastened to calm her. 

"Dearest, he knew better; and," he added, in a 
lower voice, " I knew better. Never mind what she 
tried to do; no one respects you more, no one 
does you fuller justice than Wyncote. I may also 
tell you that his interpretation was, that you were 
longing for some definite news of your mother, and 
that any kindness shown him was only to be handed 
on to her. He was puzzled, and very naturally, 
and you must dismiss it all from your mind now.** 

"I will, when I have written to Flora." 

She sat down and contemplated her note-paper, 
and was fairly at a standstill. 

So much hung, apparently, upon her answer, 
and yet. . . . 



Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 199 

At that moment a frantic peal sounded; the front 
doorbell rang as it had seldom rung; there was a 
bustle, a loud exclamation, and Miss Flora Harrington 
(her figure tremendously accentuated by a tight- 
fitting gown more aggressively tight than ever) 
rushed into the room. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE MEETING OF OLD FRIENDS. 

The surprise and, it may be added, the consterna- 
tion in Mrs. Burlington's face were something to 
see. Mr. Burlington in after days used to depict 
them for her benefit. She was so completely astounded 
at being taken by storm by the girl who had behaved 
so badly to her that she could only say, " Flora ! " 

" Well ! " said Flora, reddening. " It is Flora, but 
is that all you have got to say to me— not a single 
civil word ? " 

" I fail to see how you can expect a civil word, " 
said Maria, resentfully. " Is it possible that you do not 



The Meeting of Old Friends. 201 

feel any compunction for all the mischief you made?" 

" Compunction ! Well, I do think that is one 
way of putting it ! You ought, on the contrary, to 
feel grateful to me all your life ! But for my having 
had the courage to bring things to a crisis, you 
would never have found your mother, cleared up 
everything, and made peace with your husband ! " 

Want of breath stopped her, and only that. Maria 
flushed red and turned pale alternately. 

Mr. Burlington looked on with great amusement, 
because Flora, as she now posed, was precisely 
what he always conceived her to be — impudent! 
She was more than that. Then he saw that his 
wife was deeply annoyed, and he rose and went 
over to her. " You are hardly strong enough for 
any scenes, dear," he said, in his low complacent 
voice. " Will you leave Miss Harrington to me, 
and I can hear from her what brought her here — 
what she wishes you to do for her." 

" Oh, as far as that goes, and as Molly has 



202 A Brilliant Woman, 

changed so much, and you seem now to possess 
her confidence, let me say at once— nothing! " an- 
swered Flora briskly, "unless she will condescend 
to order me a cup of tea. Thanks," as Mr. Bur- 
lington rang and gave the order. " Now, I expect 
a visitor. I have asked Wyncote, junior, to meet 
me here. Don't faint in coils all round, but I tele- 
graphed, told him it was important, and asked him 
to' come and see me here. You see with a franti- 
cally jealous young man in one direction, I could 
not go there," and Flora stripped off her long 
gloves, pulled off her hat, patted her fluffy head with 
the gesture Maria remembered so well, and looked 
as much at home as if she was there as the cherished 
guest of the master and mistress of the house. 

From under her drooping lids, however, she 
watched to see whether her announcement had any 
effect upon the two on whom she had descended 
like an avalanche. Much to her surprise, and cer- 
tainly to her discomfiture, they both looked relieved. 



The Meeting of Old Friends. 203 

Mr. Burlington said instantly, " That is, of course, 
the best plan. You must understand, Miss Harring- 
ton that I refuse to allow my wife to mix herself up 
in this affair in any way, and it is most unfair of 
you to expect it." 

"All right," laughed Flora, maliciously. "Not 
very long ago your saying so would have been the 
best way of feeling sure that she would do it! " 

Maria, afraid of losing all self-control over herself, 
rose abruptly, and left the room, and her husband 
followed her. 

Flora looked after them with a curious expression 
— a feeling almost of envy at the perfect under- 
standing they seemed to have arrived at, an anxiety 
about her own future apparently so insecure at 
present, and regret at having forfeited a very useful 
friendships were all in turn weighing upon her. 
She drank her tea when it came, and had begun 
her second cup when Mr. Wyncote was shown into 
the room. 



204 A Brilliant Woman, 

Flora welcomed him with great satisfaction, offered 
him tea, and was so completely disembarrassed and 
at her ease, that he wondered whether he had under- 
stood her telegram correctly. 

" Well, " she said, laughing, " here I am and there 
you are! " 

" I am here, certainly, " he said gravely. " May I 
know?. .." 

" You may know nothing if you begin to speak 
in that funereal tone. I want you to do me a service ; 
nothing deadly. You need not look so alarmed! " 

But, though she spoke with a good deal of bravado, 
she was much daunted by Mr. Wyncote's grave, 
disapproving look. Nothing ever daunted Flora like 
what she called want of appreciation. She had a 
supreme belief in her own power of charming all 
mankind, and she was always immensely disconcerted 
when she discovered that her powers were limited — 
that certain people were impervious to her methods 
of fascination. 



The Meeting of Old Friends. 205 

" Will you be so good as to say in what way I 
can be useful to you ? As a friend of Mrs. Burling- 
ton's — for whom I have the very greatest respect — 
I shall be glad to serve you, " said the young man, 
gravely. 

Then Flora found her request more difficult, and 
it was a moment or two before she could find 
courage to plunge into it all. " Some one, " she said 
at length, trying to throw off the constraint his 
manner imposed upon her — "some one has tried to 
make mischief between the man I am going to 
marry and myself, and said — told him that I had 
had a hot flirtation with you! I want you to cor- 
roborate my assertion, and say it was not me at all. 
I was the go-between, and it was somebody else ! " 

In a moment Mr. Wyncote saw what she wanted, 
and a feeling of disgust rose in his mind towards 
her. How hard she had tried to let him believe 
that Mrs. Burlington was " interested " in him. 
Just at first he had had a sentimental feeling for a 



2o6 A Brilliant Woman. 

wife unappreciated by all accounts. How soon he 
had lost that feeling he knew. No man worth 
anything could blind himself to the fact of Mrs. 
Burlington's supreme indifference. Puzzled at first, 
he had afterwards thought that she guessed some- 
thing of the friendship existing betw^een his father 
and Maria's mother, whom he himself hardly ever 
saw% and at whose house he used to deposit the 
violets and other things, conceiving that if they came 
from Mrs. Burlington they must be meant for her. 

"Well, Miss Harrington, I am quite ready to 
swear, if necessary, that no flirtation existed at any 
time between us." 

* There are the flowers to be accounted for. That 
is a very important point." 

" Do you mean that the fact of your giving 
flowers from some one else, for somebody else, is 
likely to lead you into tribulation ? " 

His mocking tone irritated Flora Harrington. 

**I want you to say distinctly that I . . ." 



The Meeting of Old Friends. 207 

"That you never made love to me?" he said, 
teasingly. The comical side of it struck him now, 
and he had some difficulty in restraining his laugh- 
ter. He saw her wince, and he recovered his 
former polite tone of indifference. 

" I will write with pleasure anything absolutely 
true," he said. "Will this do?" 

He sat down, and wrote without farther words — 

" Dear Miss Harrington,— As you wish me to 
assure you of what we both know, I beg to say 
that you never at any time were the object of any 
attentions on my part, that I never was an admirer 
of yours, and that nothing ever passed between us, 
save those courtesies common to all indifferent 
acquaintances. I remain, truly yours, 

"Horace Wyncote." 

Flora took the note, and read it. 

She was mortified and angry. What had she 
expected ? 

When she raised her head again, she was alone. 



2o8 A Brilliant Woman. 

She rose, and drew a long breath. Those words 
would do; they were brutally true, but, after all, 
they would serve her turn — only . . . she had had 
a sort of faint hope that she might have drawn 
something more complimentary from the man she 
herself admired so much. She was putting on her 
long gloves when the door opened, and Mr. Bur- 
lington came in. 

" Miss Harrington, " he said, in a kind tone, 
" my wife is distressed that you should hurry away 
so fast; vShe feels it inhospitable. I have come to 
say we both hope you will stay over the night 
here. " 

" Thank you, " said Flora, a little touched by 
consideration she had not deserved; and then, her 
vanity suggesting a different reason, she said very 
archly. " You are quite, quite sure that your wife 
approves of your suggestion ? " 

" Quite sure, as the suggestion came from her. 
I am ashamed to say that it did not occur to me. " 



The Meeting of Old Friends. 209 

" All right, " said Flora. " I am glad to stop, as 
I have had a cross-country journey, and I am dread- 
fully tired. " 

Mr. Burlington left her, and was amused to find 
that as she had brought luggage and dismissed the 
railway cab, the invitation had been in a measure 
counted upon as pretty sure to be given. 

That evening Flora tried her best to re-establish 
relations on the old footing with Mrs. Burlington; 
and Maria learned how difficult it was once a woman 
had been unguardedly open about her relations with 
her husband to draw back into an attitude of reserv^e, 
with a girl who had neither tact nor delicacy, and 
who refused to see how everything was changed. 

She persisted in reminding Mrs. Burlington of 

little speeches, arguments, and other things about 

indifference towards her husband, and the wife who 

imagined that she had been reticent, and had never 

betrayed how little love had had to do with her 

marriage, had to bear, with ill-concealed impatience 
VOL. III. 14 



2IO 



A Brilliant Woman. 



at first, and open annoyance afterwards, a repetition 
of silly speeches and hcisty words she had herself 
forgotten. There were several moments that evening 
when she fondly trusted that she would never in 
all her life see Flora Harrington again. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE MEANING OF THE WORD " THANKFULNESS. " 

Mr. Burlington was a man who, in his own quiet 
way, never lost sight of an object. To his wife's 
more impatient spirit the time seemed long as each 
day passed, and she seemed no nearer than before 
to that one barrier between her and perfect happi- 
ness — the clearing of her mother's name. It was 
that mother who now preached patience. Indeed, 
to one who had herself been so long patient, nothing 
now seemed really long. Everyone knew now that 
Mrs. Burlington's mother was in the neighbourhood 
and often with her, and everyone wished to see her 



212 A Brilliant: Woman. 

and to judge for themselves what her position in 
society had been. 

" You see, " as Mrs. Hutchinson remarked, " it is 
not so much what she is now, because Mr. Burling- 
ton or his wife may have coached her, and she may 
be quite presentable, poor thing! Still a doubtful 
pas shows itself, and I shall feel really sorry for 
that poor Mr. Burlington, and his wife, of course, 
also, if the poor woman shows too plainly what her 
origin and antecedents have been. " 

" And we are certain to notice them, " said Mrs. 
Adleybourne, with severity. " I for one have a sort 
of instinct about them; something — an innate some- 
thing always tells me these things. " 

" But do you suppose that we shall be asked to 
meet her ? " asked Mrs. Hutchinson. 

" Of course not ; certainly not ; but she is always 
there. By accident one might see her, and it would 
be so awkward. " 

" So very awkward. Supposing she was intro- 



The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 213 

duced ? " and Mrs. Hutchinson looked like some one 
who had received a shock of some kind. 

It was a very still, clear, lovely autumnal day 
not long after this; and Mrs. Adleyboume was 
anxious to break the ice, and call at Burlington; 
but she had postponed her visit so long that she 
felt it a little difficult. Mrs. Hutchinson was tying 
her bonnet strings, and full of a proposed visit in 
the same direction, when she saw Mrs. Adleybourne 
driving up to her door. Mrs. Adleybourne's daugh- 
ters were not present; but she had her only 
son with her. He was her youngest child, had 
inherited more than his mother's good looks, and 
was the apple of her eye and her darling. 

To speak the truth, he was, considering the way 
he was brought up — idolised and petted — singularly 
unspoiled. He had one of those naturally fine 
dispositions that set at naught all the proverbs about 
over-indulgence. His beauty was undeniable. He 
had those large dark eyes that look out into the 



214 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

world very frankly and honestly, a clear dark com- 
plexion with a fine healthy glow, and was tall, 
well-made, elastic, and full of all the natural activity 
of a healthy boy of his age — ten. 

People used to say he was his father over again, 
but to Mrs. Adleybourne he was simply himself; 
and he was certainly not like his father, either in 
appearance or manner, — a boy whose sunny expres- 
sion and cheery manner made friends everywhere, 
whereas his father had been a somewhat ponderous 
man, whose health was too bad to admit of much 
cheerfulness, and who had never had the talent of 
making friends. Charley Adleybourne had been 
taken to-day by his mother, because she especially 
wished to mark her feeling about Mrs. Burlington's 
mother, and she intended to say something — if she 
could do so — about not having brought her daughters. 

Mrs. Hutchinson hastened down to receive her, 
and soon found that the visit was not wholly com- 
plimentary or disinterested. 



The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 215 

" I want you to come with me, Mrs. Hutchinson, ** 
said Mrs. Adleyboume, with an attempt at careless- 
ness, thinking that she was not betraying her 
anxiety. 

" It would be a good opportunity, certainly. The 
Duchess has just passed, " answered Mrs. Hutchinson, 
fully aware of all that meant. 

"Yes; under her wing as it were, the county 
could take no exception to the presence of that 
person, or rather to my meeting that person. When 
it was known that the Duchess was present, I should 
not mind. " She spoke as if each of her actions 
was of immense importance, which was, indeed, what 
she believed herself. 

" Now you see why I want you to come. " 

" Yes, I see, " said Mrs. Hutchinson. " Well, I 
do not mind going again, though I was there 
lately. " 

** And did you see the — creature?" 

*No; I saw no one but the Burlingtons. * 



2 1 6 A Brilliant Woman. 

"Mrs. Burlington subdued, I suppose?" 

" I certainly did not think so. " 

" How extraordinary ! " 

" Some people never take a lesson. I expected 
to find her a little less aggressive ; not quite 
as pleased with herself. She was just the same ; 
only I think she was more careful not to say 
startling things." 

"Ah, depend upon it, her manner, if it remains 
the same, is only put on to hide her real feelings. 
Let us go." 

The two ladies went, and drove up the avenue 
through the fine park, too much absorbed by their 
anticipations to notice the splendid autumnal dress 
of the horse chestnut trees, or the soft beauty of the 
maples in their gold and crimson dresses. When they 
arrived Mrs. Burlington was talking to an elderly 
lady, and the Duchess was not anywhere in sight. 

Mrs. Burlington received them with the same 
brilHant smile as of old. She did not name her 



The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 217 

visitor, and Mrs. Adleybourne at once conjectured 
it was the mother. This was terrible without the 
Duchess ! The lady, after a moment or two, made 
a well-bred attempt to enter into conversation with 
the new comers, and was met by singular silence, 
and a look of great astonishment. Mrs. Adleybourne 
was so irritated at her venturing to address her that 
she was simply as rude as she dared to be under 
Mrs. Burlington's eyes. That lady instantly hurried 
forward and conveyed the stranger away from her 
with marked respect. Evidently "the creature," 
thought Mrs. Adleybourne. 

Then one of the few people present ventured to 
ask Mrs. Burlington whether the Duchess had called. 

** Yes, she came here for a moment on her way 
to see my mother, " answered Mrs. Burlington, with 
very real unconsciousness. She did not in the least 
know that her words were of any importance, or 
that there was a sort of quiver of anxiety in the 
minds of two or three present. 



2i8 A Brilliant Woman, 

Mrs. Adleyboume heard, and felt a little sorry, 
not that she had been rude, but that she had been 
rude to the wrong person. Then Mrs. Hutchinson 
came up to her in a state of excitement. " Have 
you heard ? Do you know that Lady Dorothy 
Saville is here ?" 

" No ! How I should like to make her acquaint- 
ance ! Such a celebrated woman. It is really very 
interesting. I daresay she is with the Duchess." 

At that moment her Grace appeared, accompanied 
by a dark-eyed, graceful figure draped in black 
lace, with hair which was snowy white, and sparkling, 
wonderful, beautiful eyes. 

Before Mrs. Adleybourne had time to cross the 
lawn and pay her respects, her little boy had run 
up to the two ladies. He was always delighted to 
have a few kind words from her Grace, who was 
fond of children. He stood beside her, and his 
bright, beaming face won the heart of her companion. 
She stooped and kissed him. Mrs. Adleyboume 



The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness.'" 219 

was immensely pleased. She was overjoyed that 
so spontaneous a mark of favour should be given 
to her idol in the sight of all the world by so 
great a lady. As soon as she could, she went 
up to the Duchess and paid her respects in her 
most genial manner. Then with a slight hesitation 
she looked at the white-haired and lovely woman 
beside her, and said, " As your friend so kindly 
noticed my boy, I hope you will be so very good 
as to present me to her also." 

The Duchess was pleased. She never for a 
moment imagined that Mrs. Adleyboume did not 
know who this was, and she thought merely the 
two happened not to have met before. 

Turning to her friend, she said, " Dear Mrs. 
Kingson, Mrs. Adleyboume wishes to be made 
known to you." 

Mrs. Adleyboume nearly had a fit! She hardly 
heard Mrs. Kingson's gentle voice. *A friend of 
my daughter?" 



2 20 A Brilliant Woman. 

She lost her presence of mind, and after gazing 
at the figure before her for one awkward moment 
she turned and fled! A little later on, as she was 
trying to find her little boy and go away, she was 
much amazed to find him close to Mrs. Kingson, 
who was explaining in a pretty, fanciful way the 
meaning of some flowers she held on her lap. 
Never had the boy been so called by his idolising 
mother. Her voice rang out so sharply that he 
positivel}^ started. Without saying " farewell " to 
any one, save a very frigid " good-bye " to her 
hostess, Mrs. Adleyboume departed, basely deserted 
by Mrs. Hutchinson, who, as she would have 
expressed it, under the Duchess's wing, ventured 
not only to make the acquaintance of, but also to 
be very civil to Mrs. Kingson. 

Maria noted it all with acute annoyance. She 
felt it more than her mother did. There comes a 
time in life when these things cease to wound, or 
even to surprise. Mrs. Kingson had gone through 



The Aleaning of the Word " Thankfulness.'" 221 

so much that the rudeness of a woman like Mrs. 
Adleyboume had no power to vex her, and she 
did not realise how intensely her daughter felt it. 

Maria paced her room that night in a fever of 
indignation. She did not put her prayer into words, 
but had she done so it would have been to the 
effect that, if this matter could be put right, she 
would accept trial in any other shape. Mr. Bur- 
lington, who had noticed that his wife was disturbed, 
went to find her, hoping to be able to soothe her 
and to get her to look at the brighter side of the 
picture. 

" You do not know what it is ! " she said, 
sobbing; "it does seem so hard, so cruelly hard." 

" I can feel your sorrow, my darling, but you 
frighten me; you will make yourself ill again, and 
what is the good of making yourself so wretched?" 

" Any other trial, anything to right her in the 
eyes of the world!" she exclaimed vehemently. 

Any other trial. How in the near future these 



222 



A Brilliant Woman. 



words came back to her with the saddest significance ! 
Time went on. The autumn became winter, and 
while the snow still lay on the ground, thejoybells 
rang from the neighbouring churches, and a son and 
heir was bom, to the delight of all who wished well 
to the Burlingtons. Aunt Anne and Mrs. Kingson 
were equally charmed, and Mrs. Burlington's cup 
of happiness was full to overflowing. She watched 
her mother with the baby in her arms, and saw 
the happiness all round her, and felt as if the 
meaning of "thankfulness" had never come home 
to her before. 



CHAPTER XVn. 

ABOUT A CERTAIN LUNATIC. 

< 

The Ber}'ls had most sincerely rejoiced in Mr. Bur- 
lington's renewed happiness, being much more inter- 
ested, as a matter of co urse, in Mr. Burlington 
than in his wife. 

Xo after explanations, perhaps, ever entirely obli- 
terated one ver}' great mistake. There is always 
that unpleasant sense of ha\Tng misjudged or of 
being misjudged, and when any episode in the past 
has to be avoided there is very naturally a constraint 
which must always be a bar to complete intimacy 
or friendship. 



2 24 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

But the situation with regard to those painful 
family matters remained unchanged with the Beryls. 
Mrs. Beryl was hopelessly insane, and the one com- 
fort was that she was always very gentle and never 
violent. 

But as her insanity took the form of melancholia 
it was inexpressibly saddening for her husband to 
see her. She never recognized him, and sat perpe- 
tually muttering "Lost! lost! lost!" her eyes fixed 
on vacancy, taking small notice of her attendants 
or of any one. 

About this time Marcia Dorington came to the 
conclusion that she ought to do something with her 
life. Her position was different from that of many 
girls. She had no parents living, no very near 
relations, and she always thought the luxurious life 
she led was not the right life for herself She was 
enthusiastic, energetic, and possessed of many gifts, 
She turned over very often in her own mind what 
she could do, since her taking up any work did 



About a Certain Lttnatic, 



225 



not mean neglecting home duties she had not got 
to perform. What people carelessly call chance 
determined her, and sent her into a groove from 
which, had it been proposed to her some time be- 
fore, she would have shrunk back. 

It so happened that, walking by herself one day, 
she passed a cottage from which piercing shrieks 
issued. Afraid that some one was being hurt, or 
that help in some Avay was needed, she hurried to 
the door, and knocked. She heard the shrieks con- 
tinuing, and a plaintive voice trying to soothe 
some one. 

As she stood there the bright winter sun lighting 
up her hair, and touching a large white boa she was 
wearing, the cottage door was thrown violently 
open, and a pale and frightened young woman 
rushed out, followed by an elderly woman with dis- 
hevelled hair, and the expression of a perfect fiend. 
Inwardly much terrified, jMarcia had the presence 

of mind to remain absolutely still. Much to her 
VOL. III. I ^ 



2 26 A Brilliant Woman. 



surprise, the poor mad woman began curtsying to ' 

her. "The angel," she muttered, "the angel!" \ 

She covered her face with her hand, and went j 

back into the cottage. - 

" She has never been as bad as this, " said the | 

1 
daughter. "I thought she would have killed me. j 

I must go and get the doctor." \ 

" Are you not afraid of leaving her alone ? " asked I 

Marcia. j 

I 
" I cannot help it. I would be too frightened to ' 

stay another night with her," answered the daughter, j 

who was, indeed, still trembling with the fright she ' 

had received. : 

Marcia was not sure whether she herself was | 
afraid or not, but an impulse made her say, "I ■ 
will stay with her, if you will not be very long." \ 

Hardly waiting to offer her thanks, the woman 
hurried away, and Marcia then realised that she \ 
had deliberately promised what she might find it : 
difficult to perform. \ 



About a Certain Lunatic. 227 

However, she went in, resolved to do her best. 
The woman, who was muttering to herself and 
pacing up and down like a caged animal, stopped 
short, and began once more to make those curtsies 
which so embarrassed her. She was evidently ripe 
for mischief, and very restless, only restrained by 
something in the presence of Marcia, a new influ- 
ence she was not accustomed to. Every now and 
then she said, " Oh, those angry, angry voices. 
Nothing drives them away. They are always there, 
plotting and planning against me." 

Marcia had no experience, and the woman's ges- 
tures got more and more violent every moment. Then 
— she never could account for it to herself satisfac- 
torily — she began to sing. She had a very soft 
pleasant voice of great power, but penetrating, and 
very sweet. Her voice trembled a little at first, 
but she rallied all her courage, and soon found no 
courage necessary. 

The unfortunate woman dropped into a chair, and 



2 28 A Brilliant Womaii. ^ 

gazed at her visitor spellbound. As she listened, ; 

the terrible look of fury left her face, her features i 

calmed, great tears welled in her eyes and rolled j 

unheeded over her face, and she sat quiet, sobbing i 

like a little child. Marcia went on singing, and ' 

when the doctor arrived he found her standing I 

against the room door, and saw the extraordinary \ 

influence she exercised over the woman he had been I 

attending some time, whose outburst he had feared, \ 

and whose removal he had been trying to arrange. ! 

Marcia knew Dr. Howe a little, but he had never i 

heard her sing before. 1 

Mrs. Cole, the poor mad woman, was subdued \ 

and quiet enough now; she was exhausted — partly \ 

by her violence, partly from crying; and the doctor i 

and his assistant had no trouble in removing her. i 

The adventure did not dwell long in Marcia's I 

mind, and in a few days she had forgotten it. She : 

was, therefore, surprised one day to receive a letter \ 

from Dr. Howe. He said that he was going to j 



About a Certain Lunatic, 229 

ask a great favour — he was going to make a very 
earnest request. He was convinced that she was 
one of the people who, most of all others — above 
all others — had an extraordinary influence for good 
on the insane, and he entreated her to come to his 
asylum and try the effect of her voice on some of 
the unhappy inmates, when she possibly could do 
so. ]\Iuch as Marcia shrank from this idea, it seemed 
to her — if her voice really helped to soothe and 
comfort these poor afflicted beings — that it would 
be wrong to shut herself out of a direct means of 
doing good in that direction. 

She thought it over very carefully, for if she began, 
if she once undertook this thing, she must carry 
it on. . 

She agreed to go, and, after the first two or 
three times, began to lose every fear, and to like 
watching the effect of her singing on the poor 
vacant faces. There were very few. There were 
two separate buildings, in one of which were three 



230 A Brilliant Woman. \ 

ladies ; in the other about six poor women for ■ 
whom some charitable people paid. One of the 

ladies from the first took an almost inconvenient \ 

j 

affection for Marcia, and she was so lovely, so ; 

interesting in appearance, and had such refined ges- ' 

tures, so sweet and gracious a manner, that it was j 

I 

difficult to realize that she was insane. But there ; 

was a terribly hopeless look in her eyes, and every 

now and then she wrung her hands together, say- ■ 

ing, in a tone of despair, " Lost ! lost ! lost ! " No 1 

names were mentioned. Marcia was full of the | 

deepest compassion for this poor thing in parti- i 
cular. Never had her voice sounded more sweet, 

never had she thrown more of herself into her singing, \ 
than when, alone with this lady in her sitting-room, 

she sang to try to charm away her melancholy. | 

She had her reward. The settled look of sad- ' 
ness relaxed, the drooping lips took a new expres- 
sion, and a faint smile — a smile of pleasure — flitted 

I 
across her mouth. 



About a Certam Lztnatic. 231 

" I love that, " she said gently. " Oh ! I love 
that. It reminds me of something. What does it 
remind me of?" 

She leaned her face against her hand and thought, 
but she found no answer. The habit of expressing 
herself was no longer there. All at once a curious 
gleam of intelligence seemed to come over her face. 
" Ah, " she said, " I remember the name now. 
Crabbrook. A pretty place ; trees and water and 
much pleasure. Before I committed a crime I 
lived there, and I was happy ! Now ... I am 
lost ! " Her voice sank into the melancholy tone 
once more^ and Marcia, her heart beating fast of- 
fered to sing once more. 

But the maid and another attendant advised her to 
leave, because the poor lady was tired. As she bent 
and kissed her, her kiss was returned with almost 
passionate fervour, and then she said, clinging to 
Alarcia's hand, " You will come again ? You have 
done me good. When you sing I forget my crime. " 



232 A Brtllia7it Wovian. 

" I will indeed come again, and soon, " said 
Marcia, kindly. 

She was intercepted by the doctor, who was 
waiting to thank her most earnestly. She stood 
talking to him for a little while. He was a gentle- 
man of high standing in his profession, who had 
taken up the study of brain disease from sheer 
love of helping those so terribly afflicted. Marcia 
was longing to know— but shrank from asking — 
whether she was right in believing that she had 
been singing to Mrs. Beryl. As she was leaving, 
the gate, which opened from the shrubbery into the 
high road, swung back, and her question answered 
itself, for she recognized in the growing twilight the 
figure of Mr. Beryl, who overtook the doctor re- 
turning from escorting Marcia so far, and she heard 
him say something in an anxious voice about 
his wife. Fate, then, had brought her to the side 
of the poor girl who had had but a short spell 
of happiness. 



About a Certain Lunatic. 233 

The Duchess was half annoyed, half proud, of 
her friend's occupation, and Marcia had to use all 
her argumentative powers to enable her to see that 
she was receiving no harm and giving great 
pleasure. 

"I am so horribly afraid of mad people," said 
her Grace. 

" I used to be equally afraid, " answered Marcia, 
and then she said no more. 

The Duke gave Marcia right. " If you do not 
mind doing it, it is a great thing for them, poor 
things," he said, "but you must not fancy that all 
asylums are like Dr. Trevanion's. At best it is 
always a sad sight, but under his roof there is a 
look of home that softens the necessary restraint. 
By the way, I fancy one day you may see poor 
Beryl's wife there. What a pretty creature she was ! 
but flighty, odd, and then took a deeply reUgious, 
melancholy turn. Poor Beryl, what a sad, sad thing 
it has been for him ! " 



234 ^ Brilliant Woman, 

Then the Duchess saw Marcia's face. 

" She has seen her," she said to herself, and 
immediately she changed the conversation. 

But after this she made no further effort to keep 
Marcia from going there. wShe knew by that wo- 
manly intuition that enables one woman to under- 
stand the motives of another that it was a comfort 
and consolation to Marcia to do a kindness, to be 
of any use, however little, to Mr. Beryl's wife. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE ATTITUDE OF THE COUNTY TOWARDS 
MRS. KINGSON. 

Time went on, and, but for the marked rudeness 
of Mrs. Adleybourne, Mrs. Burlington's mother had 
made her way with most people. The situation had 
changed a good deal. It was not so much a ques- 
tion of who intended to know her and be her friend, 
as whom she wished to see. Always retiring, and 
difficult of approach, the little lady found her cottage 
constantly besieged by visitors, some of whom did — 
and more did not — find her at home. Old friends 
from a distance came to see her, and, but for the 
incessant reminder Mrs. Adleybourne and Lady 



236 A Brilliant Woman. 

Bridstone kept up, Maria felt as if all would, indeed, 
be well. 

All but— there was one other but. Mrs. Kingson 
herself never forgot. Those who were very friendly 
she received, but she never returned a visit; she 
never went anywhere, except to her daughter's 
house, and there she never allowed anyone to be 
introduced to her. 

Maria argued, blamed, coaxed her; all in vain. 
" No one shall ever have it in their power to say 
that they were obliged to know me. People are 
kind; be content with their kindness; the position 
I have taken up is the only one, darling; and it 
does not affect yours. I thank God daily for all the 
blessings I see you surrounded by. Be thankful 
with me, dearest!" 

" But when I see" .... and then Maria stopped 
short. If her mother had not noticed the very rude 
way in which that child of Mrs. Adleyboume's had 
been called away from her mother's side as if her 



Attitude of the County towards Mrs, Kingson. 237 

nearness might contaminate him — if her mother had 
not noticed this, why tell her about it?" 

Afterwards, Maria bitterly reproached herself for 
having been so unduly eager, so intensely anxious 
to hurry events; but all impetuous natures find 
waiting their hardest and most difficult task, and in 
those days to come she thought with keen remorse 
of her constant — her unspoken — but never-failing 
prayer; at any cost, anyhow, to see her mother 
righted, to see her honoured and appreciated as she 
deserved to be! The spring came as spring does 
not always come in " merry " England. The sun 
shone royally, and the east winds were disporting 
themselves elsewhere; and that favoured part of the 
country surrounding Burlington Manor was full of 
exquisite early wild flowers, and the woods round 
the manor were blue with wild hyacinths. Baby 
was supposed to know, to discriminate, and to 
appreciate each flower as it came out, and to be 
especially charmed with wild sorrel, wood anemones, 



238 A Brilliant Woman. 

and other treasures, because the strong baby fists 
clutched them so firmly. The sagacity and preco- 
ciousness of a first-bom is always a remarkable 
feature in natural history. Every smile is supposed 
to have a deep meaning, every gurgle to be an 
effort at intellectual speech, every murmur to be 
expressive of some sentiment, as a rule understood 
only by the devoted mother or the doting nurse, 
and conveying nonsense to the less gifted parent 
of the masculine gender. 

It was delightful to Mrs. Kingson as to Mr. Bur- 
lington to see Maria playing with her baby; un- 
wearied in her efforts to win its laughter, and showing 
the loveliest side of her character in her unselfish 
forgetfulness of being either hot or tired. 

Full of happiness, and full of life, her eyes spark- 
ling with fun, her playful gestures full of unstudied 
grace, she made a lovely picture always. 

Her husband thought so, especially one day when 
county business had detained him one afternoon, 



Attitude of the County towards Mrs. Kingson. 239 

and he joined them in a distant wood skirting the park 
wall — a wood famous for fir cones as for the great 
variety of the \vild flowers. It was still and warm, and 
when baby had grown a little tired Maria sat down 
on some thick rugs borrowed from the pony carriage, 
and let her darling nestle down and sleep upon her lap. 

Aunt Anne paced up and down with Mrs. King- 
son. There was that touch of melancholy upon the 
spirits of Maria's mother which is not uncommon 
after unusual merriment ; a shadow had come over 
the bright, speaking face, and to Miss Burlington's 
great surprise she spoke very unreservedly of her 
past and of the present. 

Miss Burlington was surprised because she herself 
was reserved, but she was gratified by the full 
appreciation Mrs. Kingson showed for her son-in-law. 

" He is so good. He is more than good, and he 
is the person above all others for my child! When 
I think of my own sufferings, at my own impatient 
folly, I feel now that I have nothing left to wish 



240 A Brilliant Woniaji. 

for — as if I had been forgiven — since my past has 
not been visited upon her. That was my dread ! 
You cannot, perhaps, understand me, but I feel so 
ready to go! Sometimes I long for the end! " 

" You suffer so much ? " asked Aunt Anne, full 
of ready sympathy. 

" Yes ; I suffer. I was afraid of leaving her before 
I prayed for life, at any cost to myself. Now, I 
should be so content, so glad, that all is well with 
her, and that I may go in peace! " 

Aunt Anne had no words ready. Such calm, 
such a wonderful expression had come into Mrs. 
Kingson's face that she thought of a favourite pas- 
sage of hers, where the expression of a human face 
is said to have the look of one who might have 
been talking with the angels. The conversation was 
interrupted by an appeal from Mr. Burlington, a 
distant landmark was in question, and Aunt Anne 
was asked whether he was not right in saying that 
it was the highest ground in Worcestershire. 



Attitude of tke CouMfy iMmards Mrs. Kingsan. 241 

She went to his side; and MrSw !Ki^soo used a 
^jwiring- path gping' up thr^ 

and ir.r: ihr : ' : : 



— w— . „*s. 






^ nt gal- 



*^ - — ^ — r 



caHing to ihe 
h :i - :: it 



tfarown just as shr ^:: .:': 

dr^^-^-^i —t:: : ■ nly two or dnee ^ri 

? -: r '- :re road wasne-'v r-.r:.C'f-.i aiid Mrs, 

VOL m. 16 



242 A Brilliant Woman. 

of what might have been. The child was Mrs. 
Adleybourne's idolised son. Mrs. Adleybourne had 
barely strength to speak w^hen she drove up. She 
sat on the roadside, her boy in her arms, tears 
pouring over her face, so completely unhinged, so 
terribly overcome, that Mr. Burlington put the whole 
party into the carriage, and sent them up to the 
house, Mrs. Kingson, silent, still, as ever, holding 
herself under complete control, and passively allow- 
ing Mrs. Adleybourne to shower kisses upon her 
hands and to hug her child alternately. When they 
reached the house Mrs. Burlington w^as already 
there, and Mr. Burlington lifted Mrs. Kingson in 
his arms, and, much to his wife's surprise, carried 
her straight up to his wife's sitting-room and gave 
two orders at once. Her maid was to be brought 
at once with the usual restoratives, and the doctor 
was sent for. 

"Is my mother ill?" asked Maria, rushing upstairs 
breathlessly. 



Attitude of the County towards Mrs. Kingsoii. 243 

" You must try to be calm for her sake, dear. 
No one can do what she did with impunity." 

" And for that woman ! " she murmured. 

" Oh, do you know her so little ? " he said, his 
eyes full of Hght and moistened with emotion. " For 
that very reason she will all the more rejoice." 

Maria, full of vague fears, went to her mother. 
Her fears vanished as she looked at her. Her face 
was so sweet, so calm. She was apparently sleeping. 

When her maid came she roused herself, and 
spoke, asking for Cyril. " I want to thank him, " 
she said, softly ; " and I want ..." 

Her maid and the doctor knew what she wanted : 
and in a short time the old priest who had been 
her fast friend came to her. The night passed so 
swiftly that Maria was startled by the dawn. When 
the sunrays came in Mrs. Kingson opened her eyes ; 
once more she murmured, "Thank you," as she 
pressed Cyril Burlington's hand, and then she asked 
Maria to kiss her. "I am weary," she said, "and 



244 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

am going to sleep." Those were her last words. 
She died as she had lived, acting up to her sense 
of duty. She had made great mistakes, but she had 
suffered much; and when Maria heard the way in 
which her mother was spoken of she felt as we 
sometimes do when we have impatiently longed for 
the realisation of a wish, that it comes when its 
value is overshadowed by the manner of its coming. 
Never was a single word uttered against the memory 
of the brave woman who had risked and lost her 
life in saving the child of a woman who had stood 
aloof and done her what harm she could. The les- 
son so terribly given was not lost on Mrs. Adley- 
boume. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

OVER THE FLOWER-BEDS. 

Mr. Beryl, in his periodical visits to his unfortu- 
nate wife, was always puzzled by her repeated 
statements of the angel that she maintained came 
and sang to her. It was a blessed change of thought. 
At first he had taken little notice, thinking it merely 
one of the hallucinations which took various forms. 
But her persistence made him feel that there was 
something more in her reiteration than usual, and 
he asked the attendant whether any lady went to 
see her. 

" A lady comes to see all the patients very often, " 



246 A Brilliant Woman. 

she answered. " The doctor has never mentioned 
her name, but she has a remarkable voice, and 
when she sings they are all quieter. I don't know 
quite how to explain it, but it has a particular sound ; 
I am myself always struck by it." 

" How was it she came here ? " 

"I really cannot tell you, sir. The doctor heard 
her sing somewhere, and he asked her to come 
here." 

" I wonder where he met her ? " 

" I have no idea, sir ; I never heard him say ; but 
I know that there is something soft in her voice 
that quiets the patients." 

Mr. Beryl asked no more; but when he next saw 
the doctor he began to talk about it, and asked the 
name of the lady who exercised such a mysterious 
influence, expressing at the same time his gratitude 
to her. His wife seemed so much better, he 
thought. 

The doctor looked at him curiously. " We do 



Over the Flower-heds. 247 

not think Mrs. Beryl so well lately," he answered. 

" No ! She seems so much less excitable. " 

"She has less strength to show it." 

Mr. Beryl was silent. How many years this 
terrible position has lasted ! Was life a desirable 
boon for her? For though lately so quiet, so gentle, 
there were terrible moments and terrible scenes to 
look back upon. AVhen driven to despair the mo- 
notonous cry of " Lost " had been a relief after the 
anguish and acute alternative fits of madness that 
rendered restraint necessary. 

" Is there anything in the world, doctor, I can 
do ? Is there anything I have left undone ? " 

" There is nothing. There is this improvement, 
if we dare call it an improvement. Your wife is 
happier; she shows less signs of melancholy; but 
she confuses people. She used to think herself in 
Paradise, and talking to the angels. There has 
been a great influence for good in the visitor she 
has had." 



248 A Brilliant Woynan. 

He was so evidently resolved not to name that 
visitor that Mr. Beryl could not ask him farther. 
It so happened, however, that the very next time 
he went to the asylum he had to go earlier than 
usual, and he was shown into the doctor's sitting- 
room, which was in communication with the rooms 
devoted to the two or three ladies who were under 
his care. Then he heard the voice, and recognized 
it only too well. It was the voice of Marcia Doring- 
ton. It was like her to come and help these 
unhappy people ! Did she guess — did she know 
who that poor fragile girl was, with the sad eyes 
and the perpetual despair? 

The voice in all its exquisite sweetness came 
floating towards him. He was quite amazed, and 
without waiting to see the doctor — afraid of meeting 
Marcia, whom he had not seen for so long — he 
slipped away, and breathed more freely when he 
got out into an unfrequented lane, where his pained 
memory, all the anguish of his position, struck him 



Over the Flo7ver-beds. 2^g 

afresh; and the battle he had fought in olden times 
had to be fought over again. How long it was 
since he had seen Marcia? Was it months or years? 

He went to London, and busied himself in all the 
occupations in which a man with the gift of writing 
cleverly spends his time. And the reports from the 
asylum followed him there. His departure was a 
great relief to the Duchess, who was one of those 
people who, having an affectionate heart and no 
particular sorrows or anxieties of her own, was very 
apt to make herself miserable about those of her 
friends. 

" ^larcia is really very tiresome, " she said to the 
Duke one day. 

"Is she?" 

"Now, do sympathize a little with me. 'Is she,' 
is not sympathizing at all." 

"Is it not? What do you want? a contradiction 
or an echo; if I said, 'She is very tiresome,' what 
a rage some one would be in. " 



250 A Brilliant Woman. 

" I should think so ! " said the Duchess with much 
spirit. 

"Here is that poor unhappy man writing again. 
]\Iy dear, he is very much in love ! " 

" They all seem to be very much in love, " said 
the Duke placidly. " That is the worst of having 
an attractive young lady with you." 

"I am sure dear Marcia does not try to attract 
anyone. " 

" That is exactly one of her greatest merits. " 

"I am very sorry for the man. Are you not a 
little sorry for him also?" 

"My dear child, you have not named him. In 
the abstract, I am sorry for all men ; but to sympa- 
thize with an individual man one must have some 
vague idea who he is." 

"Sir Charles Oakley." 

" Sir Charles, dull, elderly, prosaic, and with a wig. 
My dear, I am not sorry for him at all. He is very 
presumptuous. Commend me to female friendship 



Over the Flower-beds. 251 

if you think that man good enough for Marcia!" 
" But I do not ! Of course not ! I never dreamt 

of her marrying him ; but I am sorry for him, because 

I think he is desperately in love." 

" He is desperately in love with himself. " 
"Then why does he persist in wanting to marry 

Marcia ? " 

"Because as I have heard him say he has the 

best house, the best cook, the best horses in London ; 

and he wants the best wife." 

"Then I am glad he cannot have her. All the 

sa,me, I wish dear Marcia had a home of her own, 

and definite things to do. I do so dislike the way 

she goes to that asylum." 

"I suppose some one has been ill-natured." 

" Yes ; someone hasbeen ill-natured ; not Mrs. Adley- 

boume. Ever since poor Mrs. Kingson's death she 

has never said a single ill-natured thing of anyone. " 
"Then I know who it is — Lady Rhodes." 
The Duchess nodded. 



i 

2^2 A Brilliant Woman. \ 

\ 

"Things said to me I can answer; but no one \ 

1 
ever says these things to me. I do not know why. " \ 

i 

The Duke thought he did know. \ 

" How pleasant it is to see Mrs. Burlington now. ; 

She is always the same, so bright and so original, " j 

said the Duchess presently. - 

" Yes. wShe has a bright way of saying the very 
commonest things. It does one good to see Burling- i 
ton's happiness. He went through a good deal." \ 

"And the question is whether, if they had not ; 
gone through a good deal, they would ever have | 
discovered how much they cared for each other. 

I think eventually it must always come out." ; 

i 
" If it is there, " said the Duke, laughing at her. ! 

"Now the election is coming on, I wonder if ! 
Mrs. Burlington will become aggressively political j 
or not." 

" I am quite certain that she will be aggressive i 
in nothing," said the Duchess firmly; by which it , 
may be seen that the two ladies had foregathered ; 



Over the Flozver-beds. 253 

since the first acquaintance had been made, and 
had indeed become friends. 

The election soon turned the county into the 
usual state of feverish excitement. People bowed 
gravely where one week before they had cordially 
shaken hands, and the usual stories floated about 
concerning election speeches with the customary 
bitterness. It is always a matter for regret that on 
these occasions so much of that bitterness can be 
traced to the women of the various families. Why 
the partisanship should engender so much of this 
feeling is always an unsolved problem, and a problem 
never likely to be solved. 

Wives not perhaps noted for conjugal affection 
at other times now quote their husbands, or, perhaps, 
misquote them; fancied slights are exaggerated into 
matters of real offence, and nothing, perhaps, shows 
human nature so completely at its worst than a 
county election. 

Mr. Burlington had sincere convictions and the 



254 ^ Brilliant Woman. 

support of the larger part of the country gentlemen ; 
but he was quite able to believe that his opponents 
were equally sincere. 

" How can a man act contrary to his convictions, " 
he said, laughing one day. " Do let us give our 
opponents credit for this much honesty ! " 

" Oh, those fellows haven't it in them to be 
honest " was the answer, and this was the feeling 
of many. 

It was while things were at fever heat that Mrs. 
Adleybourne went to Burlington Manor at an 
unusual time (before luncheon), and sent an apology 
and an entreaty that Mrs. Burlington would see her. 

Maria was in the flower garden, superintending 
the laying-out of some new beds, and she imme- 
diately joined her visitor. 

" I hope nothing is wrong, " she said, as she saw the 
disturbed countenance of the ponderous lady before her. 

" Everything is wrong, " said Mrs. Adleybourne 
very solemnly, and she sighed deeply. 



Over the Floiver-beds. 255 

Maria was concerned. She pulled off her garden- 
ing gloves, and sat down prepared to listen and 
sympathize. 

" I need not tell you, Mrs. Burlington, that I 
have done my very best, I have done my utmost, 
to help your husband. " 

" You are very good. " 

" No ! it is only a small thing. I have written to 
all my tradesmen ; I have hunted up everyone I 
could think of. And I made sure of one person; 
I made certain of Sir Harvey Bridstone. My dear 
Mrs. Burlington, if his wife would only leave him 
alone! But she won't; and all I say, all I plead, 
does not effect her in the least. She answers always 
in the same way. Sir Harvey must vote for the 
Opposition. It is quite abominable of her ! " 

"But if he thinks it right?" 

" But that is exactly what he does not do ; he 
owns as much ! Lady Bridstone wrote a pamphlet, 
and put her views forward. Well, because she has 



256 A Brilliant Woman. 

done this, she says Sir Harvey is bound to back 
her up. So the poor man is to have no views of 
his own. I was so furious with her that I gave 
her my mind very freely." 

"Dear Mrs. Adleybourne, pray do not distress 
yourself. I shall be very glad if my husband wins, 
but I sometimes think no victory is worth all the 
ill will and disputes that it engenders. I remember 
when I first married I made Lady Bridstone very 
angry because I said frankly, I had no political 
convictions. I am afraid my convictions simply 
consist in thinking everything right my husband 
approves of. I have neither read much nor thought 
much about politics, and it is inconceivable to me 
that differences of opinion which must always exist 
should cause so much ill feeling. Will it ever die 
away; shall we ever all be friends again?" 

" My dear, " said Mrs. Adleybourne. " I never 
wish to be friends again with people who have 
such wrong ideas ; an election is the test ; the test. 



Over the Flower-beds. 257 

No; we are not made alike, but when people deli- 
berately, with their eyes open, choose to see their 
country going to the dogs and trusting our cherished 
institutions to the hands of a set of Radical 
nobodies " 

Then Mrs. Burlington saw that arguments were 
thrown away. 

"Let us leave politics to men who understand 
them," she said, rising, and speaking in her most 
winning way, " and let me show you my new 
flower-beds. No one understands the massing of 
colours together as well as you do." 

It was no insincere compliment. Mrs. Adley- 
boume stayed on to luncheon, and when she 
finally drove away she left a good deal of her 
bitterness in those flower-beds, and left more charmed 
than ever with the fascinating mistress of Bur- 
lington Manor. 



VOL. III. 17 



CHAPTER XX. 

VICTORY. 

The election was over. Mr. Burlington had a large 
majority, and was perhaps more surprised at this 
than anyone else. April was over. It had wept 
itself out and May (not the May of the sad, sunless 
type) had set in. An ideal, poetic, sunshiny month 
that rejoiced every one, brought out those myriads 
of insects the birds rejoice in, and called forth the 
rich, mellow songs from the thrushes and blackbirds 
we hear with a never-ending content. 

In the very middle of the election when everyone's 
attention had been fixed upon that great event, a 



Victory. 259 

hasty summons had brought two people who had 
not met for long years into the presence of Mrs. 
Beryl — her husband and Marcia Dorington. 

Mrs. Beryl was dying, and for a day or two 
before her death her clouded intellect had cleared, 
as it so often does at the last. 

She did not quite know where she was, and she 
was surprised that her husband was not there. Her 
mind went back to her last conscious time at home 
in a manner inexpressibly affecting to those two, 
who knew how the intervening years had been 
passed. 

She took up the thread as if it had never been 
broken, receiving her husband kindly when he 
arrived as if they had only just parted, and wonder- 
ing what brought Marcia there. 

" The lady who sings to you," said the doctor. 

Mrs. Beryl made no answer. She looked puzzled, 
and, passing her hand over her head, she said, "I 
have been ill, and I feel weak." 



26o A Brilliant Woman. 

Her husband could not speak. He knelt down 
beside her, and held her hand. 

"Shall I go, or shall I stay?" asked Marcia, 
most anxious not to be in the way. 

" Pray stay, " said the doctor, earnestly. 

All at once Mrs. Beryl said, " It is so sad. Now 
I am well the voice has stopped, and I loved it. 
I wish, I wish, I could hear it again ! " 

Mr. Beryl for the first time looked imploringly 
at Marcia. 

Nothing had ever cost poor Marcia so much. 
She covered her face for a moment and then began 
to sing in a low and nervous manner, but by degrees 
the effort brought its own courage as reward, and 
her voice, soft, clear, penetrating, filled the room. 

"You hear," said Mrs. Beryl softly to her hus- 
band. Then memory rushed back to her, and she 
said, " Now I know, now I understand. " She drew 
her hand away from her husband's and joined the 
two hands together. 



Victory. 261 

She closed her eyes, and then opening them 
suddenly, said : " It has been hard for you, and you 
will be lonely. I will ask my angel to stay and 
sing to you also ! She drew Marcia's hand towards 
her face and pressed her cheek upon it. Then 
slowly she put it into her husband's. Be good to 
him, " she said ; " you have been very good to me ! " 
She again closed her eyes, and Marcia left the 
room and the house and went home. 

Afterwards the doctor told her that she had asked 
him to leave her alone with her husband, and in 
the early morning she died, very calmly and very 
peacefully. 

Mr. Beryl sent her a few books and a ring, 
which he said his wife wished her to have, and 
added that he was going to travel. Might he write 
to her sometimes, and would she answer his letters ? 

To his request Marcia could give but one answer. 
She went to London, but she did not go out, save 
to a few intimate friends. The scenes she had 



2 62 A Brilliant Woman. 

lately witnessed had saddened her too much. 

Maria found herself in a pretty house in London, 
as she had once dreamt of being. She was consi- 
dered very brilliant, very fascinating, but she made 
no eifort to shine, which was probably why her 
merits were so widely recognized. 

Lady Rhodes was never able to resist planting 
a sting if she could, but she never succeeded in 
making her unhappy. Indeed, where happiness 
depends upon home, and not outside influences, it is 
difficult to touch it, however keenly an outsider 
may wish to do so. 

Perhaps next to Mrs. Burlington the person Lady 
Rhodes objected to most was the kind-hearted 
Duchess of these pages. Her Grace one day made 
a speech — most innocently — that Lady Rhodes never 
forgave her for. " It is so nice of me and it is so 
nice of you, Lady Rhodes, to be so fond of Mrs. 
Burlington, because, whenever she is present, we 
are quite extinguished ! She is so much more 



Victory. 263 

brilliant than we are. " Words failed Lady Rhodes 
on that occasion, but she never forgave it. Aunt 
Anne often looked back to that expression of Cyril's 
which had so disturbed her. She was almost more 
than anyone the great champion of all Maria thought 
— of all she did. 

There is Uttle left to say about the brilliant woman 
of this story. That she was one of those whose 
individuality sets a mark on all she touches is true ; 
but when this power — and it is a power — is used 
to enhance the happiness of her children, of her 
husband, and her home, who can take exception to it ? 

Mrs. Burlington would always be a centre of 
attraction. She had the knack of in vesting everyday 
things with a charm that made them far removed 
from common-place ; and, though she never would 
allow him to say it to her, her husband was con- 
vinced that the extraordinary success that followed 
his career was entirely due to his brilliant wife. 

THE END.